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Retailers hope to shift mountains of unsold stock from next week

Retailers across England are preparing huge sales as they reopen next Monday in a bid to lure shoppers back into stores after more than three months shut due to the third national lockdown.

Among the busiest stores are expected to be Primark which has no online shop and is therefore sitting on large amounts of winter stock that it has so far been unable to sell – along with its spring and summer collection.

The discount fashion retailer will offer extended opening hours in most stores until as late as 10pm to help reduce queues and enable social distancing – with huge demand expected at its two shops on London‘s Oxford Street. 

M&S said it is preparing for high demand for children’s clothing which is a ‘priority purchase’ for customers and has more space overall dedicated to youngsters in its stores than ever before, with a three-for-two deal in place.

The chain is also running a limited two-week promotion for its 10million Sparks cardholders where one customer every day in every store will get their entire shop for free, as well as 10 per cent off for new Sparks customers. 

Retailers in Britain are thought to have lost £30billion of sales during a torrid year for the industry, which has also seen almost 190,000 jobs lost since shops were first forced to shut their doors when the pandemic began.

Six examples of some of the deals available from retailers online today as they prepare to reopen their stores next Monday

Mannequins in an empty store on Oxford Street in London's West End today as non-essential shops prepare to reopen

Mannequins in an empty store on Oxford Street in London’s West End today as non-essential shops prepare to reopen

Employees work on new window displays on Oxford Street in London today ahead of the big reopening next Monday

Employees work on new window displays on Oxford Street in London today ahead of the big reopening next Monday

Mannequins in an empty store on Oxford Street in London today as the West End prepares for the return of shoppers

Mannequins in an empty store on Oxford Street in London today as the West End prepares for the return of shoppers

M&S has been selling its winter stock online for home delivery as well as click and collect to its food stores, as well as taking steps to manage supplies such as buying less winter partywear than it would usually. 

Staff at other fashion chains are swapping out the winter wear in their clothing displays to make way for summer outfits, while high streets are also expected to be boosted by the reopening of outdoor hospitality.

H&M said that ‘a lot of products that were intended to sell in stores, that currently are temporarily closed, are being sold online’, adding that it kept ‘inventory levels under control with limited increase compared to last year’.

The retailer will also open its stores across England next Monday, with current sales including men’s Chelsea boots down from £39.99 to £15, and women’s straight high ankle jeans down 50 per cent from £29.99 to £15.

Other items on sale in the women’s section include a cropped jumpsuit reduced from £34.99 to £20, a rib-knit cardigan down from £17.99 to £10 and a cotton flannel shirt reduced from £14.99 to £9.99.

Parents will be able to snap up a range of deals at The Entertainer, with the toy shop holding promotions both in-store and online on various big name brands such as L.O.L and Little Tikes and also a range of outdoor toys.  

Employees work on new window displays on Oxford Street in London today as shops get ready to reopen next Monday

Employees work on new window displays on Oxford Street in London today as shops get ready to reopen next Monday

A stall holder prepares his stand today ahead of the shops around it to reopen next week on Oxford Street in London

A stall holder prepares his stand today ahead of the shops around it to reopen next week on Oxford Street in London 

Members of the public walk past the closed Debenhams department store on Oxford Street in London today

Members of the public walk past the closed Debenhams department store on Oxford Street in London today

A dying plant in a bank on Oxford Street in London is pictured today ahead of the reopening of shops next Monday

A dying plant in a bank on Oxford Street in London is pictured today ahead of the reopening of shops next Monday

These include a Dolu My First Slide, reduced from £39.99 to £28.99; 50 per cent off a Little TIkes Sport Racer Ride On from £129.99 to £64.99; and an Evo 3 Wheeled Mini Cruiser Scooter in pink down from £39.99 to £24.99. 

Saga eyes pent-up cruise demand from vaccinated customers aged over 50

Over-50s insurance and cruise giant Saga has hailed ‘significant pent-up demand’ from vaccinated customers to travel again as it posted a heavy slump in profits for the past year.

Shares in the company soared in early trading on Wednesday as bosses at the business struck an upbeat tone despite sliding profits. It told investors that underlying pre-tax profits plummeted by 84.4 per cent to £17.1 million for the year to January 31.

The company said it also saw a reduction in the value of its travel assets due to the impact of Covid-19, which would have dragged it to a loss for the year. It came as revenues dived by 57.7 per cent to £337.6 million, primarily due to the suspension of travel operations from March last year.

The group also reported lower retail broking revenues as the pandemic weighed on travel insurance. However, Saga said it is ready to restart its tour operations and cruise business later this year when it is given the green light by Government.

Group chief executive officer Euan Sutherland said the company expects ‘high levels’ of customer retention in its cruise business when restrictions are lifted.

He said: ‘Looking ahead, while we are mindful of economic headwinds and the potential ongoing impacts of Covid-19, it is clear that there is significant pent-up demand among our customer base, the vast majority of whom have now been vaccinated and are ready to enjoy post-lockdown freedom.’ 

Home furnishings retailer Dunelm also has a range of online offers which will be moving into stores from next Monday until April 28, including 20 per cent off teddy bedding, mirage mugs and Dorma adult bedding. 

Lakeland expects demand to ‘vary dependent on location’, but anticipates product categories that are seeing the most demand online will continue into retail, including kitchenware and tableware. 

Safety measures at its stores will include hand sanitiser stations for staff and customers, distance markers on the floor, encouraging contactless payments and providing all employees with face coverings.

Customers will also be able to visit John Lewis stores and use the fitting rooms. Executive director Pippa Wicks said: ‘We’re excited to be opening up much-needed services and helping customers choose those items that are harder to buy online – from the perfect mattress, to road testing the right pram or finding the right pair of jeans.’ 

People in need of some affordable furniture will be able to visit Ikea from Monday, but those planning to visit only for its Swedish meatballs will have to wait until May 17 when its indoor restaurants can reopen.  

Hobbycraft stores in England and Wales will reopen with a ‘custom crafting live’ deal event, including a Cricut Maker ultimate smart cutting machine down from £380 to £299 as well as 15 per cent off selected accessories. 

The craft retailer has also put in place discounts across craft essentials such as card packs and glass, wood and cotton blanks – while customers at its shops can also get a Cricut Joy machine for £149 instead of £179. 

In the hospitality sector, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen for outdoor service only, from next Monday. There will be no 10pm curfew and no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcohol. 

Venues without gardens have been busy trying to create outdoor seating space so that they can claw back revenue lost during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, parents hoping for a fun day out with their children can plan a visit to Legoland Windsor. Model makers at the park have been busy adding the finishing touches to their designs which include a Lego giraffe.

Its outdoor rides will reopen next week in time for the remainder of the Easter holidays. The resort has asked guests aged over 11 to wear a mask and it will be limiting the number of guests in the park each day.  

A John Lewis staff member gets fitting rooms ready at the store at Westfield White City in West London ahead of it reopening

A John Lewis staff member gets fitting rooms ready at the store at Westfield White City in West London ahead of it reopening

A John Lewis staff member cleans shoes at their store in White City ahead of non-essential shops reopening next Monday

A John Lewis staff member cleans shoes at their store in White City ahead of non-essential shops reopening next Monday

A John Lewis staff member prepares a display at the store in White City as they prepare to welcome customers back

A John Lewis staff member prepares a display at the store in White City as they prepare to welcome customers back

A staff member cleans light fittings at the John Lewis store in White City ahead of it reopening at the start of next week

A staff member cleans light fittings at the John Lewis store in White City ahead of it reopening at the start of next week

John Lewis staff members work on the display behind the shop windows at their White City store ahead of its reopening

John Lewis staff members work on the display behind the shop windows at their White City store ahead of its reopening

Retail experts at Springboard expect footfall across all UK retail destinations to rise by 48 per cent week-on-week when non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality reopens next Monday.

High streets are set to see the largest rise in footfall of 59 per cent, while it is anticipated that shopping centres and retail parks will see rises of 46 and 26 per cent respectively

At the end of first and second lockdowns last year, footfall rose in the first week by more than 40 per cent, but greater rises are expected this time due to the success of the UK’s vaccination programme.

The reopening in mid-April will also see footfall rise by 129 per cent in comparison to the same week in 2020, and it is expected to be significantly boosted further later this year by the eventual return of office workers. 

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: ‘As we approach the 12-month mark since the start of the pandemic in the UK, lockdown fatigue is at its height and the increases in footfall over the last five weeks have indicated the pent up demand for a return to normality.  

 

The deserted High Street in Shrewsbury is pictured on January 7 during England's third national lockdown

The deserted High Street in Shrewsbury is pictured on January 7 during England’s third national lockdown

People walking along a near empty High Street in Winchester, Hampshire, on April 21 last year during the first lockdown

People walking along a near empty High Street in Winchester, Hampshire, on April 21 last year during the first lockdown

The deserted High Street in Guildford, Surrey, the morning after Boris Johnson announced the third lockdown, on January 5

The deserted High Street in Guildford, Surrey, the morning after Boris Johnson announced the third lockdown, on January 5

Many shops remain closed on the High Street in Leicester during England's third national lockdown on January 15

Many shops remain closed on the High Street in Leicester during England’s third national lockdown on January 15

‘We know from when non-essential retail reopened at the end of lockdowns one in June and two in December that footfall will rise sharply and we anticipate this will be more prominent than ever before with a rise of up to 47.9 per cent.

‘By mid-April, consumers will be looking for sensory and social retail experiences, reconnecting with their favourite brands and purchasing new wardrobes for a summer of social events. We are anticipating a strong initial uplift in April that will continue to rise over the summer months as the economy reopens in the UK.’ 

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses on Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and in Mayfair, said its members were ‘expecting a strong reopening next week’.

He added: ‘It has been a difficult year for retail and hospitality, but the multiple lockdowns of 2020 have shown us that we can reopen safely and sustainably. The ongoing success of the vaccination programme has given us the boost we desperately need to save jobs and viable businesses. 

‘Anyone coming to the West End should rest assured that extensive safety measures are in place and retailers are well practiced and prepared to ensure visitors can enjoy the area safely, with plenty of space. The recovery will be gradual, but with significant inward investment we feel confident our district has a bright and repurposed future.’


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