Coronavirus: Waterstones closes stores after backlash; Kurt Geiger & HMV also close

Waterstones closes stores after backlash; Kurt Geiger & HMV also close
Waterstones joins a growing list of retailers that have already taken this measure.
// Waterstones, HMV and Kurt Geiger the latest retailers to reveal they are temporarily closing stores
// Waterstones’ closure follows social media backlash over allegations staff were being put at risk over contracting Covid-19
// Kurt Geiger boss Neil Clifford is suspending his salary for a year as shops shut temporarily

Waterstones, HMV and Kurt Geiger are temporarily closing all their stores amid the coronavirus crisis, joining a growing list of retailers that have already taken this measure.

Waterstones’ store closures pertain to its full estate, which includes both the eponymous bookstore chain as well as Foyles – although customers can still shop online.

The retailer sited the wellbeing of customers and staff amid the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the store closures, which will take effect from the end of today.


“To mitigate possible spread of the coronavirus, and to protect the wellbeing of our customers and staff, we regret to announce the temporary closure of all Waterstones branches,” a spokesperson told Retail Gazette.

“This will be in effect from the end of trade Monday 23 March until further notice.

“As this period of isolation will attest, books are vital to our society, and we very much look forward to the moment we can open our doors and begin bookselling on the high street again.

“In the meantime, will continue to serve our customers’ reading needs.”

The news from Waterstones comes after the retailer faced backlash on the weekend over allegations that shop floor staff were not being given hand sanitisers and were discouraged from wearing masks.

While it had already closed its in-store cafes and implemented social distancing measures across its 280-strong store estate, Waterstones was met with controversy when it insisted last week that their stores would remain open.

The backlash also came after Waterstones managing director James Daunt said that the pandemic had led to “unprecedented demand” for books, with a 17 per cent increase in sales.

In a note to staff, as seen by Retail Gazette, Waterstones said that during the store closures most shop floor staff will go on “furlough”, but will still have their pay covered under the government’s offer to cover up to 80 per cent of wages for all workers across all industries whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the retailer said it may still need skeletal staff to handle deliveries.

“The consequence of this decision will be that the great majority of employees will be placed on furlough,” Waterstones said in its note to employees.

“We do this with the support of the government when the alternative is to enact a wide redundancy.

“No business can continue to pay its employees when its source of revenue disappears and we are very grateful that this is not necessary.”

It added: “Now, we work on how best to bolster our online operation and how best to sustain the business until such time as we are able to open our doors again.”

Meanwhile, music and entertainment retailer HMV closed its stores for trade at the end of Sunday, although – like most other retailers – customers could still order through its website.

In a statement, HMV said it was “with a heavy heart” it was closing, adding it had kept its stores open for as long as possible because of “how much entertainment can support people during difficult times”.

On the other hand, all 55 Kurt Geiger stores across the UK and Ireland shut until further notice over the weekend, with chief executive Neil Clifford saying he would suspend his own salary until the stores re-open.

Kurt Geiger also said NHS workers would receive a 50 per cent discount for a year in all of its stores once they have reopened.

The temporary store closures from Waterstones, HMV and Kurt Geiger follow similar moves from a raft of retailers – including H&M Group, Primark, Arcadia Group, Inditex, New Look and Edinburgh Woollen Group – even though the government has not yet ordered a lockdown for that sector specifically, as it has done so for the hospitality and leisure sectors.

Full list of retailers (so far) that have temporarily shut their UK high street stores:

  • HMV
  • Waterstones
  • Foyles
  • Kurt Geiger
  • Primark
  • Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (Jaeger, Austin Reed, Peacocks, Bonmarche, Jane Norman, Ponden Home, Edinburgh Woollen Mill)
  • Timpson
  • John Lewis
  • Clarks
  • Ikea
  • Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Evans)
  • New Look
  • River Island
  • H&M Group (Weekday, Arket, Monki, Cos, H&M Home, & Other Stories, H&M)
  • Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Zara Home)
  • TK Maxx
  • Reiss
  • Selfridges
  • Harrods
  • Fenwick
  • Liberty London
  • Harvey Nichols
  • The Body Shop
  • Boden
  • Michael Kors
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Gap
  • Oasis and Warehouse
  • Monsoon
  • Oxfam
  • The British Heart Foundation
  • Lego
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Apple
  • Calvin Klein
  • Sweaty Betty

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