Covid-19: The Perfume Shop joins retail's list of online closures

The Perfume Shop has added its name to the list of UK retailers temporarily closing their online operations as a result of the continuing Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.

The AS Watson-owned company opted to close its 231 stores on Sunday 22 March to protect its colleagues and customers – a decision made one day before the UK government officially called for all ‘non-essential’ shops to close. But the decision to shut down eCommerce services was made yesterday (31 March), with its 1,875 staff set to be supported by the parent group’s workforce financial package, established to support colleagues during the health emergency.

“For 25 years our talented and passionate colleagues have been at our heart and have always come first and that is why we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend fulfilment of website orders so our warehouse team can follow government advice to stay at home,” the retailer said in a statement.

Retailers are not mandated by the government to close their online operations – indeed, the official government advice is that takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with specific health and safety guidance, while “online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal”.

The digital platforms of grocers and health retailers are very much in demand at present, and look set to remain open for the duration of this crisis period as they play an essential role in serving the nation, but a divide is emerging in the decision making between non-essential retailers.

Businesses including Moss Bros, River Island, and Next have opted to shut down their warehouses and online business voluntarily – often in response to requests from workers concerned about the safety of continuing to work in a pandemic.

Adding The Perfume Shop to that list, managing director Gill Smith said: “Like everyone we are following government guidelines closely and feel we need to put our colleagues, and their families, first and this means pausing delivery of online orders for the moment.”

Other retailers, including Asos, Waterstones and White Stuff continue to operate, saying they have made amendments to their facilities to better meet government demands for social distancing.

In a customer email sent this week, Waterstones said its bookseller and barista staff are all furloughed on full pay, but the business continues to operate online – albeit potentially at a reduced level.

“Online orders to continue to be fulfilled, but delivery timeframes may differ to our usual service due to capacity and Royal Mail’s ability to execute those deliveries,” it said.

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