It was announced yesterday that Debenhams could be forced to close 124 stores in the UK following the fold of the Arcadia group.
The high street department chain could be plunged into liquidation before the end of the year if a buyer is not found, after JD Sports pulled out of talks to buy Arcadia.
The Mirror has reported that the chain is preparing a 70% pre-Christmas clearance in what is expected to be their last sale ever.
The company confirmed it will continue to trade on the high street and online with a ‘fire sale’ of its stock from today.
Today has been dubbed ‘Wild Wednesday’ and is set to be one of the busiest days of the year as retailers return from lockdown with new 24-hour opening times.
Debenhams shoppers are being urged to spend gift cards and return any unwanted goods, with the chain likely to be liquidated by the end of 2020.
Arcadia triggered the latest Debenhams announcement, placing 13,000 workers at risk of redundancy on Monday night as it crashed into administration.
Employees are calling for Sir Philip Green, Arcadia boss, to sell his £100m super yacht to help save 13,000 workers who are set to lose their jobs at Debenhams.
He is also under pressure to plug Arcadia’s £350m pension black hole, a move which would echo the demise of BHS in 2015 where he was shamed into paying the bill by MPs.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said Green has a ‘moral duty’ to pay the pension deficit, urging the billionaire to do the right thing and avoid a repeat of the BHS collapse.
Rishi Sunak has said the government ‘stands ready’ to help the 25,000 Debenhams and Arcadia workers. He said: “There are negotiations between various parties and the companies at the moment – particularly with regard to pensions – and it wouldn’t be right for me to comment specifically on those”.
In the worst case scenario, the UK’s Pension Protection Fund is likely to act as a lifeboat if insolvency is enforced.
Arcadia runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas with 9,294 employees on furlough. Experts have said the loss of Debenhams and Arcadia will change Britain’s landscape forever.
Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics said: “We cannot overstate the significance of this collapse given the vast property portfolio, number of jobs impacted and the reverberations felt across the industry.
“In a week that has seen the collapse of the Arcadia Group, this is a truly devastating week for the high street. This puts up to 25,000 jobs at risk in just a couple of days.”
Councils can offer homeless people cash and food vouchers to get Covid vaccine, government confirms
In England, homeless people are a group with a very low vaccine uptake
Homeless people across England can be offered cash and food vouchers in exchange for getting the Covid vaccine, the government has confirmed today.
Eddie Hughes, the minister for rough sleeping, said councils could use part of the government’s £28m ‘protect and vaccinate’ scheme to incentivise vaccinations for those on the streets in the first scheme of its kind in the UK, the Local Government Chronicle reported.
The new funding will go towards delivering mobile vaccinations where people are sleeping on the streets, supporting outreach work in shelters to educate people about the dangers of the virus, and to councils to provide accommodation.
Hughes said homeless people are a group with very low levels of vaccination, pointing out that there is likely to be a degree of ‘vaccine hesitancy’.
He explained: “So we’re making an additional pot of money available to incentivise vaccinations for this group. This funding will help local authorities and their partners to use their understanding of the needs of rough sleepers to increase the vaccination take-up.
“Incentivisation will be at the discretion of local authorities but could include transport, subsistence, childcare and support workers’ costs.
“So I want to be clear, you will have considerable support to do this.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities added: “The discretion given to councils include[s] the ability to offer cash or food vouchers as incentives for vaccination.”
Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, told Inside Housing that the new funding is ‘incredibly welcome’ and ‘will help to protect the lives of people facing the most vulnerable circumstances.’
He said: “Through our frontline services, we know that vaccination rates amongst people experiencing homelessness are particularly low.
“This could prove fatal for many when also coupled with other health issues and the physical impact of spending night and day on the streets in the freezing cold.”
Just one month ago, new figures showed that at least thirty-three people died while sleeping rough in Manchester during the 2020 pandemic.
While this statistic is down from the fifty-one recorded deaths in 2019, it is still 65% higher than the twenty homeless deaths estimated in 2013, when the figures were first collected.
Morrisons will now ban shoppers without a mask unless they’re exempt
Morrisons will now no longer allow shoppers in stores without a mask unless they’re medically exempt.
The supermarket Morrisons has now confirmed that customers who refuse to wear a mask will be told to leave the store unless they can provide a medical exemption.
Chief executive David Potts said: “Those who are offered a face covering and decline to wear one won’t be allowed to shop at Morrisons unless they are medically exempt. Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family, please be kind.”
This comes after shopworkers’ union USDAW said it was ‘inundated’ with complaints from members who were ‘deeply concerned’ for their safety, as the public often ignore Covid rules.
England’s chief medical officer said earlier that the next few weeks will be the worst of the pandemic, pleading with the public to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people not in their household.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Chris Whitty added: “This new variant is really pushing things in a way that the old variant, which was already very bad, was not able to. So we have a very significant problem … The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi also voiced his concerns that the public were not complying with the measures put in place by supermarkets. He said: “I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket.”
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) general secretary, Paddy Lillis said: “Retail staff are working with the public every day and not only suffer increased abuse, but are deeply worried about catching Covid-19.
“Where safety measures are agreed, retailers need to make sure that they are being followed consistently, in every store. We are also very concerned by reports that too many customers are not following necessary safety measures like social distancing, wearing a face covering and only shopping for essential items.”
New tighter rules are also now reportedly being considered by the government, six days after the national lockdown was implemented.
The Telegraph reports that a ban on households mixing is being considered by ministers as well as the possible introduction of face coverings in offices, as some businesses have apparently become ‘lax’.
Shoppers left ‘fuming’ after Poundland’s festive till message publicly ‘humiliates’ them
Naughty or nice?
Poundland’s festive till alerts have been dubbed ‘humiliating’ by some customers.
Not everybody is impressed with new till alert at Poundland that put a festive twist on the automated voice.
Santa replaces the normal voice at the self-serve tills this Christmas, however one shopper was left mortified after her card was rejected and Santa started singing.
A video of the festive alert has gone viral with many criticising it as Father Christmas can be heard warning: “Card not accepted, is it on the naughty list?
“Because I’m checking it twice, I’m going to find out who’s naughty or nice,” before singing: “Santa Claus is coming to town.”
One woman complained on Twitter writing: “Your tills are incredibly embarrassing!! Shouting out my card was declined over and over. How discreet for your customers. Not.
“All because I needed to transfer my money to the correct account, the whole shop thought I couldn’t purchase.
“Not happy one bit. Merry Xmas.”
A video has been shared on TikTok racking up over 150,000 veiws. The caption read: “So guys, I accidentally used the wrong card so it got declined – listen to this self checkout machine.
“OMG I’m absolutely screaminggggggg.
“Narrrh, I’m actually emailing Poundland HR, how f****** embarrassing.”
A person replied saying: “This happened to me yesterday! The most embarrassing thing ever.”
A fed up employee replied: “I work at Poundland and this haunts me.”
On Twitter, one man tweeted: “Bizarrely, Poundland has turned its self-service till voice into Santa.
“Just stood behind a queue of people buying binbags, cotton buds, weedkiller with Santa joyfully proclaiming, ‘Ho ho ho, make sure you get those wrapped nicely for Christmas!’ every time.”
A second added: “Shopping in @Poundland and hearing Santa’s voice on the self serve tills was the cheer up I didn’t know I needed today.”
A Poundland spokesman told The Mirror: “Santa took time out of his very busy schedule to do this. How can anyone be a grinch about Santa?
“Our seasonal checkout voices from Elvis to Yoda are part of what makes Poundland, Poundland. We haven’t lost our sense of humour despite this being an unusual year.”