Wednesday 1 July 2020 2:01 pm

Harrods slashes 700 jobs as pandemic weighs on high street

Luxury department chain Harrods has announced it is slashing 700 jobs, as the British high street continues to feel the weight of the coronavirus crisis.

In an email to staff, managing director Michael Ward said Harrods was slashing up to 14 per cent of its 4,800-strong workforce due to the “ongoing impact” of Covid-19.

Ward wrote: “With a heavy heart, today I need to confirm that due to the ongoing impacts of this pandemic, we as a business will need to make reductions to our workforce.”

He added it would take a “drastic improvement in external conditions” for Harrods to recover and return to growth, as strict social distancing measures continue to suffocate hopes of pre-Covid footfall for retailers.  

“The necessary social distancing requirements to protect employees and customers is having a huge impact on our ability to trade, while the devastation in international travel has meant we have lost key customers coming to our store and frontline operations,” he added. 

Jobs in parts of the store that remain closed — including beauty services and cafes — are expected to be among those to go.

It comes as the coronavirus crisis continues to weigh on retail businesses that heavily rely on footfall. 

John Lewis today announced some of its 50 stores will remain permanently shuttered, which will likely result in job cuts. Staff bonuses are set to be ditched next year for the first time since 1953.

Last Friday, shopping centre giant Intu, which owns and operates 17 centres across the UK, announced it had entered into administration. 

The pandemic pushed the Lakeside-owner over the edge, after it had been struggling with a £4.5bn debt for more than a year. 

Though footfall has risen slightly since non-essential shops were allowed to reopen earlier this month, it remained 54 per cent down last week compared to the same period in 2019.

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