// Net-a-Porter to close UK warehouse after backlash
// Boohoo asks staff to come into work despite pandemic
// Asos accused of “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives”
Net-a-Porter has announced it will temporarily close its only UK distribution centre in London in a bid to protect its staff from the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision comes after the online luxury retailer was accused by workers’ union GMB of “putting fashion before lives” by refusing to close.
Net-a-Porter defended itself and said the health and wellbeing of its colleagues and the community was the first priority.
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It is now closing its south London warehouse – where a total of 550 people work – in line with similar temporary closures made in Europe and the US, until further notice.
Luxury online retailer The Outnet, which is owned by the same parent company as Net-a-Porter – YNAP – has also closed its warehouses.
“Now is not the time for us to be focusing on sending out expensive fashion items to people who can’t leave the house if it means workers are being exposed to needless contamination – not to mention the risk to Net-A-Porter customers,” GMB organiser Mary Stump said.
Another online retailer that faced backlash is Asos, after being criticised by the GMB for “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives” for failing to shut operations during the crisis.
Over at ecommerce giant Boohoo, staff have been told to still come into work during the pandemic as the retailer claims it is “business as usual”.
Being a fast fashion retailer, Boohoo relies heavily on rapidly updating its website with new clothes and images.
Consequently, models, photographers, make-up artists and stylists have to come in for pictures.
Usdaw divisional officer Mike Aylward wrote to Boohoo: “I have received numerous enquiries from our members in your Burnley warehouse concerned about their health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak and seeking clarity over your intentions to keep the warehouse open or not.”
“Government advice is not clear. From the PM’s address to the nation to the current advice on the government website the goalposts have moved from businesses only being allowed to open if they are on the list of essential services, to being allowed to open simply because it’s not possible to work from home.
“However, if you followed the spirit of the government advice and prioritised the health of your employees then you would close the warehouse. Selling fashion items is not essential in a period of national emergency.
“Could you please confirm that you intend to close the warehouse for the safety of your employees and their families?”
Boohoo said it was closely following the government guidelines to keep everyone safe by enabling the vast majority of its team to work from home.
The retailer added that where it’s not possible to work from home, it has implemented stringent hygiene and self-distancing measures while it can find a suitable alternative.
The government recently announced that people should work from home unless it is “impossible” to do so.
Retail Gazette has contacted both YNAP and Boohoo for comment.