Fortnum & Mason predicts a 'THIRD of retail brands will disappear'

Fortnum & Mason boss gives dire forecast that a ‘THIRD of British retail brands will disappear’ by MARCH after 80% plunge in footfall due to lockdown and shoppers avoiding the West End

  • Ewan Venters said the new strict tier system would dampen Christmas trade 
  • Predicted move would be fatal for many retailers, even ‘great well-run brands’ 
  • Boris Johnson imposed brutal Tier 2 and 3 rules on 99% of England yesterday 

The Fortnum & Mason CEO today gloomily predicted a third of British retail brands will disappear by March after an 80% plunge in footfall due to lockdown and shoppers avoiding the West End. 

Ewan Venters said the Government’s new strict tier system, which bans people meeting anyone outside their household indoors, would restrict the number of shoppers venturing into stores over the crucial Christmas period. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I predict that by the end of the first quarter of next year up a third of British retail brands will disappear.’

Boris Johnson imposed brutal Tier 2 and 3 rules on 99% of England yesterday, with the higher category banning all hospitality business, while the other permits pubs to stay open only if they serve food.

Tier 3 areas will also see bans on any other indoor entertainment venues, including casinos, amusement arcades, bowling alleys and museums.  

Non-essential shops are allowed to stay open under all tiers, but footfall is set to be hit by bans on the ban on gathering indoors and restrictions on bars and pubs.  

Ewan Venters said the Government’s new strict tier system, which bans meeting anyone outside your household indoors, would restrict the number of people venturing into shops over the crucial Christmas period

Mr Venters, who will leave his role in the New Year, said the lack of footfall would hurt Fortnum’s, the upmarket Piccadilly department store established in 1707.

‘It puts the business in a fragile position because so much of our sales and profitability comes from the month of December, and in a large part, November,’ he said. 

‘Fortunately we have a strong balance sheet and good cash reserves so we’ll see through this storm but for a number of retailers the lack of Christmas trade would put them in a perilous position.’

The 48-year-old said even some of the best brands could fall victim to the Covid slump.    

Beleaguered stores set for Black Friday boost – but most of the spend will go online  

In a Black Friday frenzy, shoppers are predicted to spend £2billion more than last year this weekend. But experts warn that some bargains may not be quite as attractive as they appear.

For the first time, Britons will spend more online this Christmas than in the high street thanks to the lockdown of non-essential stores. Many internet retailers, including Amazon and eBay, have been running Black Friday deals for weeks.

However major retailers including Next, M&S, Wilko and B&M will not be taking part in the sales event on Friday – instead pledging to provide all-year round value instead.

Meanwhile, a dramatic surge is expected in online sales today through the weekend to Cyber Monday.

A study by the Centre for Retail Research estimates spending at online stores over the three days will hit £5.75billion – up by 53 per cent on the £3.77billion for the Black Friday weekend last year. 

‘I was rather unpopular when I said that there were a number of businesses that needed to go to the wall because they weren’t great brands before Covid.

‘But sadly now, with this extended period, there are some fantastic brands and some well run businesses who will fall victim because they are simply not getting the sales they need to survive’.

To help boost the high street, he called for reform to business rates and a u-turn on scrapping tax-free shopping.  

The warning echoes comments by Richard Caring, one of Britain’s top restaurateurs,  who yesterday savaged the Government’s severe new tier system as a death sentence for the hospitality sector.

Richard Caring, who owns chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, believes that more than two thirds of his industry has been so mauled by lockdowns that it will never recover.

Mr Caring told MailOnline: ‘This government bounces off one wall onto another, its inexperience and inefficiencies are shown clearly in the manner they have handled this awful pandemic so far.

‘It has turned both its inexperience and inefficiency against the hospitality industry of this country.

‘Already what was the second largest industry in this country has been permanently decimated by at least 35%, never to return.’ 

Mr Caring singled out as particularly vulnerable the cities of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol ‘where the hospitality industry, hanging on by its finger nails, was hoping to be able to make some income in their most busy weeks of the year.’

The cities Mr Caring mentions have all been plunged into Tier 3, meaning that they will effectively transition into lockdown by another name on December 2. London and Liverpool are the only cities not to be in Tier 3. 

All but three places will be plunged into Tier Three or Two (shown in red and orange) when England’s national shutdown ends on Wednesday 

‘This is business TORTURE’: Furious pub and restaurant bosses say they are ‘better off furloughing staff’ than operating as takeaways in Tier Three 

England’s pubs and bars have suffered a ‘mortal blow’ after Boris Johnson imposed brutal Tier 2 and 3 rules on 99% of the country yesterday with one landlord describing the decision as ‘business torture’. 

Manchester bar owner Martin Greenhow has said that businesses like his in Tier 3 are better off ‘sitting on our hands’ and claiming furlough while the British Beer and Pub Association has warned that two thirds of all pubs in Tier 2 areas are not viable with 4,600 jobs already gone this year.    

Mr Greenhow told the BBC: ‘Every tier is a mortal blow to hospitality. Tier 2 is the old Tier 3 remember and it simply doesn’t work. We’ve tried.

‘We are better sitting on our hands taking benefits, furlough and what meagre grants are available from the Government.

‘The tiers are waterboarding for our industry – we’re allowed out for a brief gasp of fiscal oxygen and we’re slammed back down. This is, pure and simple, business torture’.

But pubs and restaurants with outside space that can reopen next week are said to be enjoying a flood of bookings as friends rush to get back together for some al fresco dining and drinking when lockdown ends of December 2.

Demand has been so high in London that many venues are fully booked. However, the British Beer and Pub Association has warned that two thirds of pubs in Tier 2 areas are not viable because they cannot serve food or host people outdoors.

The only pittance these desperate restaurants and bars can now rely on is through takeaway orders.

Mr Caring warned that ‘survival through January/February will be a nightmare as the first quarter of the year is always the toughest.’

‘For those unfortunate employees on furlough I dread to think how many hundreds of thousands are now effectively unemployed,’ he added.

The tier restrictions are anticipated to last until at least April and, according to a dossier from the Treasury watchdog, could run into the middle of next year.

Mr Caring asks: ‘Why is this country the one whose economy will suffer the worst?

‘Why does this country have one of the worst COVID death per capita in the world?

‘As far as hospitality goes and the government’s present comprehension, the death now will only get louder.’

The British economy is staring down the barrel of its worst recession since the Great Frost of 1709 and is among the worst affected in Europe, along with France, Spain and Italy.

And despite battening down the hatches, Britain has one of the worst death tolls in the world (fifth by total) and per capita the countries are ranked as follows: Belgium, Peru, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

As an example of the government’s ‘inexperience,’ Mr Caring highlighted the curfew rule, which still stands in Tiers 1 and 2 under the new system.

He said: ‘The ridiculous 10pm curfew did little more than destroy more of the industry while at the same time throwing tens of thousands of people together in uncontrolled masses.

‘The government continued with incompetence, even after they were informed (even by the scientists) that this was only going to serve to increase the spread of the virus, while at the same time further destroy an industry already on its knees.’

Under the allocations announced today, just 700,000 people – 1% of the population – will be subject to the loosest grade of restrictions. Before November 5 there were 29 million in the lowest tier.

Meanwhile, around 55 million residents will be in the toughest two levels after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2. 

Richard Caring, owner of restaurant chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, has torn the government to pieces over its ‘inexperience and inefficiency’ in dealing with Covid

A shuttered restaurant on the Strand in central London during the second national lockdown earlier this month

Cheap as chips! Tier 2 pub landlord to start selling ‘substantial’ scampi and fries for just £3 in desperate bid to get drinkers back 

A London pub landlord will start selling scampi and chips for just £3 next week when he is forced to sell a ‘substantial meal’ to every drinker under Tier 2 restrictions.

Gary Murphy, of the Ye Old Mitre in High Barnet, said it would be impossible to grill his regular £10 dishes for each punter and so will deep fry everything at cut-price.

Gary Murphy, of the Ye Old Mitre in High Barnet, said he will be offering deep-fried food at cut price 

Mr Murphy, who makes 97 per cent of his profits from drinks, has overhauled his menu so his regular punters are not deterred from stopping by for a drink.

Customers will be able to buy either scampi, chicken or a burger and chips for just £3, he told MailOnline.

Usually the pub sells 8oz burgers with ‘all the trimmings’ for £10 which takes 20 minutes on the grill.

But Mr Murphy said doing that for every customer in his tiny kitchen would be impossible and so is replacing it with a deep fried burger with no bun. 

He said today: ‘I think the meal requirement is nonsense but I’m opening out of desperation. I may not make a profit but hopefully I won’t carry on making a loss.’  

It has sparked a huge backlash, with anger at the lack of clear thresholds for entering and leaving Tiers, and many local MPs in low-infection areas enraged at being lumped together with nearby hotspots.

The government has published a narrative explanation of why each area is going into each tier, but has dismissed calls to use numerical trigger points.

A slew of senior Tories have threatened to rebel in a crunch vote on the plans next week. 

Recent figures have shown the impact Covid restrictions have already had on struggling high streets. 

One in eight shops have never reopened since the first lockdown began with 5,500 still closed as tourists and office workers stay home.

Analysis of retailers with more than five stores nationwide found out of 43,766 shops, 5,552 (12 per cent) have kept their doors shut since March, leaving nearly 900 acres of shopping space unused for eight months.

Around 2,000 shops closed permanently, while 36,209 managed to reopen after the first lockdown.

The study by PWC and the Local Data Company found shops in high streets and city centres have been hit hardest, as the chairman of Fenwick department stores declared footfall in London ‘dead’.

Yesterday, All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Harvester owner Mitchells & Butlers confirmed around 1,300 jobs have been axed as it revealed the pandemic sent it plunging to a £123 million annual loss. 

The pubs giant laid bare the extent of the recent redundancies as annual results showed the hefty annual losses for the year to September 26 from pre-tax profits of £177 million the previous year. 

Last week, fashion change Peacocks and Jaeger fell into administration, putting more than 4,700 jobs and almost 500 shops at risk.

The retailers, which were both part of billionaire Philip Day’s EWM Group retail empire, confirmed they had appointed administrators from FRP Advisory.

The administrators said no redundancies or store closures have been confirmed yet. 

Since March, more than 200,000 job losses have been announced by firms affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Yesterday, All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Harvester owner Mitchells & Butlers has confirmed around 1,300 jobs have been axed as it revealed the pandemic sent it plunging to a £123 million annual loss

How 219,000 job losses have been revealed by major UK firms since lockdown began, with thousands more at risk

Nearly 219,000 job losses have been announced by major British employers since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March as follows:

  • November 26 – Mitchells & Butlers – 1,300 jobs
  • November 19 – Peacocks and Jaeger  – 4,700 jobs at risk
  • November 13 – Greggs – 820 
  • November 5 – Sainsbury’s and Argos – 3,500 
  • November 4 – John Lewis – 1,500 
  • November 4 – Lloyds – 1,070 
  • October 29 – Pizza Express – 1,300 
  • October 7 – Greene King – 800 
  • October 6 – Virgin Money – 400 
  • October 6 – Vp – 150 
  • October 5 – Cineworld – 5,500 (many cuts likely to be temporary) 
  • September 30 – TSB – 900 
  • September 30 – Shell – 9,000 worldwide 
  • September 29 – Ferguson – 1,200
  • September 22 – Wetherspoon – 400 to 450
  • September 22 – Whitbread – 6,000
  • September 18 – Investec – 210
  • September 15 – Waitrose – 124
  • September 14 – London City Airport – 239
  • September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865
  • September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450
  • September 4 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,150
  • September 3 – Costa – 1,650
  • August 27 – Pret a Manger – 2,800 (includes 1,000 announced on July 6)
  • August 26 – Gatwick Airport – 600
  • August 25 – Co-operative Bank – 350
  • August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650
  • August 18 – Bombardier – 95
  • August 18 – Marks & Spencer – 7,000
  • August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
  • August 14 – River Island – 350
  • August 12 – NatWest – 550
  • August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
  • August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
  • August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
  • August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
  • August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
  • August 5 – M&Co – 380
  • August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
  • August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
  • August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
  • August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
  • August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
  • August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
  • July 31 – Byron – 651
  • July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
  • July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
  • July 28 – Selfridges – 450
  • July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
  • July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
  • July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
  • July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
  • July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
  • July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
  • July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
  • July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
  • July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
  • July 14 – Vertu – 345 July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
  • July 9 – General Electric – 369
  • July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
  • July 9 – Boots – 4,000
  • July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
  • July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
  • July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
  • July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
  • July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
  • July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
  • July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
  • July 1 – Harrods – 700
  • July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
  • June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
  • June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
  • June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
  • June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
  • June 24 – Jet2 – 102
  • June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
  • June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
  • June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
  • June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
  • June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
  • June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
  • June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
  • June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200
  • June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500
  • June 11 – Bombardier – 600
  • June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
  • June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
  • June 10 – Quiz – 93
  • June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
  • June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
  • June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
  • June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
  • June 8 – Mulberry – 375
  • June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
  • June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
  • June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
  • June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
  • May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
  • May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
  • May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
  • May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
  • May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
  • May 21 – Clarks – 900
  • May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
  • May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
  • May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
  • May 19 – Antler – 164
  • May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
  • May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
  • May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
  • May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
  • May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
  • May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
  • April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
  • April 29 – WPP – unknown number
  • April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
  • April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
  • April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
  • April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
  • April 17 – Debenhams – 422
  • March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
  • March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
  • March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk

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