Clothing retailer Next reopens online but hits daily limit in hours

UK clothing retailer Next hit a self-imposed daily limit within hours of reopening its online business on Tuesday, indicating consumer demand during the coronavirus lockdown.

UK government guidelines have encouraged online operations to remain open, and retailers such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis have maintained theirs, as have pure online players ASOS and Boohoo.

Next closed its stores on March 23, a day before Britain’s lockdown, and halted its online business, which provides more than half of its revenue, on March 26, ceding to pressure from employees at warehouse worried about their health.

On Tuesday, Next said it had partially reopened its online operations after implementing “very extensive additional security measures” and consultations with staff and its recognized union, the USDAW.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said Next Online generates annual revenue of more than £ 2 billion (€ 2.3 billion), of which around 25% comes from Label, its third-party branding platform. “With the industry likely to be overwhelmed with unsold seasonal products, we believe Next will benefit as a useful customs clearance channel, especially given the group’s commission model, which will give brands a level of price control. and the range, ”they said.

Self-imposed limit

Next’s website reopened for items such as children’s clothing and some small household items at 6 a.m., but hit its self-imposed limit by 7:30 a.m. and will reopen on Wednesday. “The idea is to start selling in low volumes, so that we only need a small number of colleagues in each warehouse at a time, which helps ensure that strict social distancing is adhered to.” , did he declare.

To achieve this, Next will only allow orders for the number of items it believes can be safely picked up on a given day. At this point, it will stop taking orders and convert the website to “browse only” until the next morning. Initially, only the categories that customers need the most will be offered. Other product lines may be added later.

Next said it had “completely revamped” the way its warehouses, which are located primarily near the town of Doncaster in northern England, operate to allow for rigorous social distancing.

It had also put in place measures such as improved disinfection and travel safety when entering, moving and leaving each site, mainly through the establishment of clear one-way systems. and new gateways.

Then operations will only begin with staff who want to return to work and can do so without using public transport and a spokesperson said more than 3,000 volunteers had already offered to return to work and would be paid bonuses. As everyone must be trained on the new security arrangements before starting, Next ran with around 500 on Tuesday. Before the crisis, the total operation of the group’s warehouse employed around 9,000 people. However, this figure also includes workers who service Next stores rather than online businesses.

– Reuters

Anne G. Cash