Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group latest to temporarily close stores

  • Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group announces closures of 1300+ stores amid coronavirus crisis, Retail Gazette can reveal
  • Follows news that Primark is closing all 189 stores & cancelled all new orders from suppliers
  • Timpsons will also temporarily closing all 2150 shops by Monday, March 23, 2020, at 5pm

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group will temporarily close all of its stores in a effort to keep staff safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, Retail Gazette can reveal.

The Philip Day-owned retail firm confirmed that the temporary closures will take effect from 5pm tonight (Sunday, March 22) and the stores will remain closed until further notice.

While the “vast majority” of its 1300-plus stores will be affected, the Retail Gazette understands that a minority of sites will remain open if they are in concessions in other stores that remain open.

The company’s decision to close high street stores pertains to its full stable of retail chains, including Jaeger, Austin Reed, Jane Norman, Peacock, Ponden Home, Bonmarche, and the eponymous Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

However, as with most other retailers that have shut their high street stores, customers can still shop Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group’s stable of brands via their respective ecommerce websites.

Retail Gazette understands that no staff will lose their jobs as a result of the temporary store closures, and that the 100 head office redundancies announced on Friday is a completely separate matter.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group employs around 25000 people.

While the details are unclear on how shop floor staff will be supported during the temporary closure, Retail Gazette understands that the company is eyeing the government’s recently-announced offer to cover up to 80 per cent of wages for jobs affected by the coronavirus crisis.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group stressed the welfare and health of staff as the reason behind the temporary store closures. “The health of our team and customers is our top priority at this difficult and uncertain time,” they told Retail Gazette. We have, therefore, taken the difficult decision to close the vast majority of our stores across the group from 5pm on Sunday 22 March until further notice. This is a painful decision, but we realised it was the only one that a responsible business could take.

Our stores have served local high streets across the country for more than 50 years, and we remain as committed as ever to realising our core mission of bringing brick-and-mortar shops back to local high streets. But, for now, we will continue to serve our customers online via our brands’ websites. We have introduced home collection to honour returns and are putting as much resource as we can into our websites so we can get products to our customers over the coming period.

“Above everything else, though, we hope that our team, customers and everyone else across the country stay at home – and that you and your families remain safe and healthy.”

The news comes after Primark and Timpson also joined the growing list of major retailers temporarily closing their stores across the UK when the government has not yet ordered a lockdown for that sector specifically.

AB Foods confirmed that it intended to close its 189 Primark stores in the UK for the foreseeable future, after shutting its other 187 venues across Europe and the US in recent days.

Meanwhile, Timpson chief executive James Timpson announced on Twitter that the cobbler chain will be “going to hibernation” from Monday night, and confirmed that all staff will remain on full pay.

“We are temporarily closing all our 2150 shops by Monday March 23rd at 5pm, and going in to hibernation…we hope it won’t be for too long,” Timpson tweeted.

“All our wonderful colleagues will remain on full pay, and will look forward to seeing you when we re open. Thank you.”

Primark has also cancelled all new clothing orders from suppliers, such as factories in India and Bangladesh, but said it would continue to honour orders already shipped or delivered to Primark warehouses or stores.

“This situation has been so fast moving,” Primark chief executive Paul Marchant said.

“We could not have foreseen that over the course of a week, our stores in every country in which we operate, with the exception of the UK, have had to close.

“We have therefore been left with no option but to take this action.

He added: “This is unprecedented action for unprecedented and frankly unimaginable times.”

Unlike its high street fashion rivals, Primark has no ecommerce site that could offset the lost sales, although AB Foods has an FMCG division that has been relatively unaffected thanks to soaring demand in grocery.

The temporary UK store closures from Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, Primark and Timpson follow similar moves from a raft of retailers and mark the latest Coroanvirus-related blow for high streets and shopping centres nationwide.