Leicestershire-headquartered NEXT has closed its online, warehousing and distribution operations in response to staff concerns surrounding coronavirus.
NEXT said: “NEXT has listened very carefully to its colleagues working in Warehousing and Distribution Operations to fulfil Online orders. It is clear that many increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate.
“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.”
The news follows a recent statement from the retailer on the risks coronavirus poses to the business: “When the pandemic first appeared in China, we assumed that the threat was to our supply chain. It is now very clear that the risk to demand is by far the greatest challenge we face and we need to prepare for a significant downturn in sales for the duration of the pandemic.
“We have no experience of a similar crisis so there is no way of predicting the extent that the effect coronavirus will have on our Retail and Online sales. It is not yet clear how widespread the virus will be at any one time, how long the pandemic will last and what the medium to long term effect of this pandemic will be on consumer behaviour.”
Next continued: “Our priority is to do all we can to keep our workplaces and shops as safe as possible for customers and staff. At the same time we must prepare the business for varying levels of sales declines. To that end we have modelled the effects of differing levels of sales declines along with all the measures we can take to ensure that the Company remains within its bond and bank facilities.”
“One thing we can be sure of, at some point the pandemic will pass and when the dust settles it will be the work we have put into (1) securing the cash resources of the business and (2) moving the business forward that will make the difference to the long term future of the Company,” Next said.
Following a stress test presenting the likely cash and profit impact for different levels of sales decline as a result of the outbreak, the firm highlighted potential sales losses of up to £1bn.