// Next closes online operations and warehousing operations after backlash from MPs and staff
// Staff said they were being pressured into helping with online orders despite the nationwide lockdown
// Other fashion retailers that have also shut down online and warehouses are TK Maxx & River Island
Next has been forced into a u-turn over its decision to keep warehouses open and ask workers to travel into stores for picking online orders, following backlash from MPs an staff.
TK Maxx and River Island have also ceased online operations as health concerns and trade union opposition about warehouse working conditions, such as the lack of social distancing.
Next said it temporarily shut down its online operations last night and stopped taking orders.
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The retailer’s bosses have faced sustained pressure from politicians and staff, who felt like they were being pressured into stores amid the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the retail giant had offered a 20 per cent pay rise to any worker willing to continue picking fashion items for online orders.
Allegations also emerged that workers in warehouses were not adhering to social distancing.
In a statement issued shortly after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that details of the government’s support package for employers, Next said it “has listened very carefully”.
“It is clear that many increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate,” the retailer said.
“Next has therefore taken the difficult decision to temporarily close its online, warehousing and distribution operations from this evening, Thursday 26 March 2020.
“Next will not be taking any more online orders after this time until further notice.”
There has been unease in the sector over the government’s position with retailers continuing to trade online – with some reports of workers being forced into warehouses or risk losing their jobs.
Some major high street chains, including McDonald’s and Greggs, have closed all operations, despite being able to continue offering takeaways under current lockdown rules.
In retail, several firms have closed down online operations to protect staff from travelling and maintaining social distance.
However, some fashion retailers continue to run online operations, including Boohoo and Asos, despite the government calling on all non-essential workers to stay home.
Next has struggled during the outbreak, at first insisting in official communications that it would be considering the company “essential” in the event of a lockdown.
This was changed and stores were closed, but some staff were still being asked to come to sites and pick for online orders while warehousing operations continued.
Meanwhile, a message on TK Maxx’s website said: “As the situation has unfolded, we think it is necessary to stop taking orders online.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience but our priority is the wellbeing of our associates and their families.”
River Island said it has started preparations to shut its distribution centre in Milton Keynes indefinitely from the end of this week.
The fashion retailer said it would be fulfilling all outstanding online orders before closing its fulfilment centre but no new orders would be processed until its distribution centre reopens.
Other high street fashion retailers that have already closed their online operations and warehouses include Moss Bros and Schuh.
with PA Wires