Britain’s beleaguered high street retailers must feel like a flyweight boxer trapped in the ring with a heavyweight. They’re ducking and diving, but the massive hits just keep on coming.
Among the latest to be struck a sizzling blow to the jaw is the famous Marks & Spencer, which is cutting 950 jobs, it announced on Monday.
These comprise management posts at some stores, as well as property and operational roles at the group’s head office in London.
Impact of pandemic and move to online shopping
These are in addition to hundreds of jobs lost and numerous store closures announced last year.
These don’t relate to the pandemic, but rather to the general slowdown in brick-and-mortar retailing, as more and more Britons have opted for online shopping.
The pandemic and national lockdown have merely amplified the chronic problems that were already being experienced by the UK’s high street retailers
Retailers have already cut thousands of jobs
In recent weeks John Lewis & Partners, a high-end department store chain, has cut 1 300 jobs. Boots, a pharmacy and beauty group, has also reduced its workforce by 4 000 positions.
On Monday, the fashion retailer Ted Bates said it was preparing to axe more than 500 jobs, which equates to over a quarter of its workforce.
This is in addition to 160 jobs that were cut in February.
Even Harrods can’t escape the retail carnage
Even the legendary Harrods department store in central London has not proved immune to the carnage.
It announced recently 700 employees – 14% of the total staff complement – will be losing their jobs. This will likely include employees in those parts of the store that remain closed even after post-lockdown reopening, among them beauty services and the iconic cafes.
Harrods was almost entirely closed for three months due to the pandemic. It was something not even German bombers and Nazi buzz-bombs could achieve during the darkest days of World War Two.
Research shows shopping numbers way down
According to a study released on Monday by market research company Springboard Research, people are slowly returning to high streets after the pandemic.
But the numbers remain low and well down on last year. Nationally the numbers are down an average of 40% on 2019.
But in London, the figures are down by a huge 71%. This could be due to the number of foreign shoppers that normally throng the streets of the capital now being completely absent because of travel bans and border closures.