Covid government app “pinges” on threat to fashion retail

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The NHS Test and trace app “pinged” a record number of people last week, when 530,126 were asked to self-isolate for up to 10 days. Mass alerts have sparked chaos for fashion companies.

Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe said isolation notifications are “a major problem in all industries right now.”

He warned that store opening hours could be shortened as a result: “Our Covid cases are doubling roughly every week and the ping level is around three at one of the Covid cases, so we are seeing this increase in a way. exponential. If there are shortages, we will have to deal with them by changing store hours and reducing hours. “

The general manager of a shoe retailer said: “We had to [temporarily] close one of our stores this weekend. We did not have enough staff because many were isolated. Overall, around 8% of our workforce is self-isolating. It can be difficult to deal with. Within reason we can move staff around the stores if necessary, but if a handful of store managers are isolating themselves, it can be difficult to manage. “

He explained that the practical nature of shoe shopping made it a challenge with reduced staff in all stores: “In large clothing stores it is possible to limit staff by closing the changing rooms, but in the industry of the shoe, this is not possible. It affects different retailers in different ways.

Asos CEO Nick Beighton said last week that there had been ‘a lot of testing and streaking’ at the group’s London headquarters and the Barnsley distribution center: ‘It’s very frustrating for the staff and for us. Even people who have had a double bite need to self-isolate. “

The general manager of a Main Street multiple told Drapers he had had problems with staffing levels in his stores: “We are trying to get around this problem with smaller shifts and reduced opening hours. . We also considered closing the stores for 30 minutes, or allowing teams to exchange in order to have the usual opening hours. It’s a work in progress and a major algorithm for those who organize rotations.

“We will continue to have a few teams in the office, but I’m sure the teams will be organically reduced with isolation over the next two or three weeks when [cases] going peak.

A leading supplier said the isolation notifications could impact the entire industry supply chain: “So far, the business has only been slightly affected. One staff member is currently in segregation. In the future, this could impact freight. For example, the number of truck drivers could decrease if they are asked to self-isolate. It has the potential to disrupt a lot. We just hope August 16 will arrive soon.

Rowe of M&S agreed, “Where the industry will see the pain is in the supply chain, as logistics are tight to be efficient anyway.”

From August 16, people fully vaccinated in England will no longer have to self-isolate after coming in close contact with someone who tests positive.

Helen Dickinson, Managing Director of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said that date should be brought forward: “We are already seeing a serious impact on retail operations as staff have to isolate themselves and this will only happen. ‘to get worse. across the economy, as cases are already increasing rapidly and final restrictions are relaxed. Given the effectiveness of the current vaccine deployment program, the government should move the date of August 16 forward so that people who are fully vaccinated or who test negative are not required to quarantine themselves unnecessarily when contacted by track and trace. “

Drapers has contacted the Department of Health for comment.

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