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Retailers caught up in UK airport chaos


By Ben Sillitoe

Many retailers at the UK’s busiest airport Heathrow missed out on Christmas trade over the weekend after flights almost came to a complete standstill.

Only 16 flights left the Middlesex-based hub yesterday, meaning air-side retailers such as luxury goods provider Harrods and fashion business Mulberry in Terminal 3 were left to serve a customer base made up of predominantly airport staff.

Some stores shut early due to the lack of passenger numbers, with one airport sales assistant describing the trade as “completely dead”.

More flights are starting to take off from Heathrow today and an HMV store assistant indicated that there are now “loads of passengers”, although airport owner BAA announced this afternoon that it has agreed a reduced flying schedule until 06:00 GMT on Wednesday.

“A maximum one-third of flights are likely to operate during this period, and passengers should anticipate further delays and cancellations in the following days and potentially beyond Christmas Day,” the airport operator added.

“Passengers should not travel to Heathrow without a confirmed booking. If passengers can travel at another time then they should do so.”

Health and beauty retailer Boots opened its airport stores at Gatwick and Heathrow earlier than usual throughout the weekend, while trading hours were increased to deal with the high demand from landside passengers.

A spokesperson told Retail Gazette: “We also donated all our baby food and nappies to BAA to be distributed to customers.

“On Saturday evening we also donated our sandwiches to customers.”

WHSmith thanked its staff who it said had “made fantastic efforts to keep stores well-stocked and trading during the snowy weather”.

The airport chaos is set to continue in the days leading up to December 25th, with more snow forecast for later in the week.

In a statement yesterday, the Met Office said: “The icy weather shows no sign of loosening its grip on the UK over the next few days, with further snow in some areas potentially leading to disruption to travel networks.”

Published on Monday 20 December by Editorial Assistant

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