The John Lewis Partnership unveils measures to support elderly
The John Lewis Partnership is to give £1m to a community support fund and introduce a protected shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
There are also plans to introduce digital services, including online craft classes, and make them available to anyone in self-isolation.
John Lewis Partnership chairman Sharon White says: “At this time of national crisis, the John Lewis Partnership is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring we support customers and in particular the elderly and most vulnerable.
“Our commitment to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities we operate in has always been at the heart of our business.
“Partners have been outstanding, supporting each other and responding to the huge surge in demand at Waitrose.
“More than 2,100 John Lewis Partners are helping in Waitrose shops this month and supporting deliveries; I am truly grateful to everyone.”
The dedicated shopping hour at Waitrose supermarkets will start from Friday and will be the first dedicated shopping hour of the day.
Women’s Aid ad campaign highlights coercive control
The Women’s Aid Federation of England is featuring a new ad in the latest issue of glossy monthly Vanity Fair.
‘The Pattern of Abuse’, created with the Engine agency, has been devised to raise awareness around coercive control, which is at the heart of domestic abuse.
Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life.
The ad contains a hidden message of abuse within a pattern, created from a series of questions that represent abusive behaviour.
Fundraising manager at Women’s Aid Faye Connelly says: “From our work with survivors, we know that coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse yet continues to be largely misunderstood and underreported.
“During these uncertain times and under current guidance, we know that a lot of women will have to spend more time indoors. We are thinking of all those for whom home is not a safe place but one of fear and control.”
EasyJet to introduce changes to staff terms and conditions
EasyJet has reportedly told staff that they must accept a number of changes in their terms and conditions as the coronavirus pandemic brings airlines to a standstill.
These include a freeze on pay rises and an enforced period of three months unpaid leave.
The budget airline will also only provide water for crew during shifts, with no food available.
With the news coming at the same time as a £170m payout in dividends to shareholders, staff are said to be angry at the announcement.
Negotiators have rejected the plans, claiming that there was “no evidence that the current crisis warrants such an extensive change in terms and conditions for such a long period, particularly when so many of them are so critically linked to flight safety and fatigue”.
The union Unite says in a statement it is “very much still in talks with EasyJet and it is totally untrue to suggest the union has rejected all the company’s proposals.”
Disney+ reveals content line-up
Streaming service Disney+ has revealed its 24 March launch day line-up of content, featuring The Simpsons, The Avengers, Hannah Montana and The World According to Jeff Goldblum.
There will be more than 500 films (including more than 30 Marvel movies), over 350 series and 26 exclusive original shows.
Seasons one to 30 of the Simpsons will be available to watch, as will a number of Oscar-winning documentaries and the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian.
The service is currently on offer at an introductory annual price of £49.99.
CMA welcomes relaxing of competition laws
Having published its annual plan earlier this week, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that it is “very conscious” about concerns that competition law enforcement could impede cooperation between businesses to deal with COVID-19.
In a statement, the Authority welcomed the government’s announcement that it would be relaxing some elements of competition law to help supermarkets work together and ensure supplies of essential products and services.
And the CMA stressed that it would not enforce any action against businesses cooperating together while the crisis was ongoing.
It did, however, point out that it would not “tolerate unscrupulous businesses exploiting the crisis as a ‘cover’ for non-essential collusion”, including the exchanging of information regarding longer-term pricing or business strategies.
Thursday, 19 March
Ryanair to ground vast majority of flights from next week
Ryanair expects to cancel most, if not all, its flights from 24 March in response to crackdowns on travel caused by the spread of Covid-19. Ryanair says it will ground the majority of its aircraft over the next seven to 10 days as it prepares for an 80% cut in capacity over the next two months.
It will run a limited number of flights between the UK and Ireland to maintain connectivity and says it is on hand to help governments with the repatriation of citizens where needed. Qantas is also grounding the majority of its flights and putting two-thirds of its staff on unpaid leave.
“Ryanair sincerely regrets all disruptions caused by this unprecedented Covid-19 crisis. The safety and well-being of our people and customers is our main priority and we will continue to comply with all WHO and EASA guidelines, as well as all Government travel restrictions which have been imposed over recent days to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” says the company in a statement.
Elsewhere, EasyJet has launched its winter sale early, offering flights from just £30 for some destinations between 25 October and 28 February despite the deepening crisis. The move comes as it tries to drum up demand amid a cash squeeze as it is forced to cancel bookings and waive fees.
BrewDog turns bars into drive thrus
Scottish brewer BrewDog is turning all its bars into the UK into drive thrus as it looks to find ways to keep making sales during the coronavirus outbreak.
Customers will be able to place orders through its Hop Drop app. It is selling items at a 30% discount, with a 50% discount for NHS workers.
BrewDog co-founder James Watt says: “These are uncertain times. But we are committed to looking after our crew, our customers and our company. Thinking of new ways you can buy beer rom us led to this – BrewDog Drive Thru. Now you don’t even need to leave your car to pay us a visit. Order online, click & collect, and we’ll bring it to your vehicle, bike or yourself.”
The company has also said it will begin making hand sanitiser at its distillery and give it away for free to those that need it. It expects the first batch to be available for local charities by next week.
Gin producers such as Verdant Spirits and 58 Gin have also made similar moves, while in France, LVMH has switched production at three of its perfume and cosmetics factories to produce hand sanitiser.
Zara-owner Inditex, meanwhile, has said it is looking into converting part of its textile manufacturing capacity in Spain to produce hospital gowns. The company has been forced to shut almost half its global stores.
Vodafone and TalkTalk experience internet traffic rise
Vodafone says it is experiencing a 30% rise in internet traffic in the UK across both its broadband and mobile networks as more people work from home and go out less.
While spikes in usage are “largely the same” in terms of the amount of data being uploaded and downloaded, it is seeing its “busy hours” extend back to lunchtime. Usually its busiest hours would be between 6pm and 8pm.
TalkTalk also say its daytime network traffic has increased by 20% since Monday.
The increase in traffic has led to concerns that networks could be overloaded and suggestions that online TV services should switch to lower resolution feeds to protect infrastructure. However, Vodafone says it can meet the growing demand.
“We have enough headroom to meet growing demand and to keep the UK connected,” a spokesman told BBC News. “Our network team is keeping a constant watch on the situation.”
Global banks still funnelling investments into fossil fuels
Global banks have invested more than £2.2 trillion into fossil fuels since the Paris climate agreement.
Data compiled by the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance and Sierra Club, found that financing for companies that are expanding fossil fuel extraction has surged nearly 40% in the past year.
JP Morgan Chase has been the largest financier, providing more than £220bn in financial services to companies that extract oil, gas and coal in the four years since the Paris agreement.
Rainforest Action Network researcher Alison Kirsch says: “The data reveal that global banks are not only ramping up financing of fossil fuels overall, but are also increasing funding for the companies most responsible for fossil fuel expansion.”
Ocado sees growth rate double as customers ‘forward buy’
Ocado has seen its growth rate double since the 1 March as customers “forward buy” amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The online grocer’s retail sales were up 10.3% in the three months to the 1 March but have since doubled. It has also experienced a double-digit increase in customer orders and higher basket values, with customers increasing the purchase of ambient goods in particular.
Despite the uptick, Ocado still expects full year growth for the year of between 10% and 15% as forward buying levels out and as it plans for further disruption in the future. Ocado has already been forced to halt new registrations and yesterday temporarily closed its website to make changes to the distribution of products and deliver slots to make them “as fair as possible”.
Wednesday, 18 March
Amazon stops shipments of non-essential items
Amazon is blocking all shipments of non-essential products to its warehouses in response to the significant increase in orders as coronavirus spreads across the US and UK.
The company told sellers and vendors that it would accept only shipments of “household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products” to its warehouse until 5 April to deal with the high demand of those products amid the coronavirus crisis.
That means sellers who use Amazon’s storage and delivery network for a fixed fee will no longer be able to ship non-essential products to Amazon. The same restrictions apply to vendors that wholesale their products to Amazon, which then resells them at a markup.
Amazon says in an email to sellers that it is now prioritising shipment in six categories to the UK and US: baby product; health and household (including personal care appliances); beauty and personal care; grocery; industrial and scientific; and pet supplies.
Morrisons to create 3,500 jobs to help expand home deliveries
Morrisons is creating 3,500 new jobs so that it can expand its delivery service.
The supermarket says that it is expanding home delivery with new ways of getting shopping to people, more slots for customers and prioritising the most vulnerable. Shoppers have been struggling with long waiting times for online shopping slots and empty shelves since coronavirus spread to the UK.
The supermarket will add another 100 stores that are able to pick customers’ shopping over the coming weeks to meet the growing demand. It is also introducing a customer call centre for orders to be taken over the phone so that people who do not shop online can still order food.
To make all these changes possible, Morrisons is recruiting an extra 3,500 workers. In addition to around 2,500 pickers and drivers to expand home delivery, Morrisons will be recruiting around 1,000 people to work in the company’s distribution centres. The vacancies will be advertised through a campaign on radio, social media and the Morrisons jobs website morrisons.jobs.
Morrisons will also be launching a new range of simple-to-order food parcels, including options for vegetarians, from 23 March.
Sainsbury’s to limit customer purchases and close cafes
Sainsbury’s is putting in a number of measures to get it through the coronavirus crisis including restricting customer purchases to combat panic buying, closing its in-store cafes and counters, and expanding its online services.
In a letter to customers, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe says that from today customers will be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two of the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk.
He says: “We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers.”
From Monday, the group will operate an expanded click and collect service, with a significant increase in the number of collection sites across the UK.
Coupe adds: “This means we can free up warehouse and lorry capacity for products that customers really need. It will also free up time for our store colleagues to focus on keeping the shelves as well stocked as possible.”
Sainsbury’s also plans to reserve hours in stores specifically for the elderly and vulnerable, and will give customers aged over 70 or have a disability priority access to online delivery slots.
LinkedIn unveils conversation ads
LinkedIn is introducing conversation ads to improve personalisation in messaging.
The ad format builds on LinkedIn’s current message ads (formerly sponsored inmail), featuring full-funnel campaigns with options for multiple customised calls-to-action such as product education, webinar sign-ups, or ebook downloads.
The ad units can be used with other features, such as lead-gen forms and conversion tracking, and are designed for real-time engagement, so they can be sent when the prospect is active on LinkedIn “and in the right mindset.”
More than 2.5 billion people across the world use mobile messaging apps, and LinkedIn has seen a shift to more personal one-on-one conversations, with the number of messages sent quadrupling in the past five years.
The new ad product will roll out globally in beta to all advertisers over the next few weeks.
HSBC appoints permanent CEO
HSBC has hired a permanent CEO, with interim chief executive Noel Quinn taking up the post permanently with immediate effect, bringing an end to its six-month search.
The appointment will allow Quinn to push through his plan to transform the UK lender into a leaner business, which will involve a predicted 35,000 job losses.
Chairman of the bank, Mark Tucker, says: “He is a strong and proven leader with extensive global banking expertise, deep client relationships and the energy and skill to drive the business forward at pace.”
Quinn assumed the CEO role on an interim basis after the unexpected resignation of John Flint in August last year. However, many predicted HSBC would choose an external candidate for the first time in its history.
Quinn says: “I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead HSBC as group CEO… HSBC is an outstanding global company with talented and dedicated people. There is much that remains to be done and I am confident that we will rise to the challenge and deliver for our shareholders, customers, employees and society at large.”
Tuesday, 17 March
Euro 2020 ‘set to be postponed’
UEFA is today expected to postpone this summer’s Euro 2020 football tournament amid the worsening coronavirus crisis.
The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that the tournament will be delayed in order to allow Europe’s domestic football leagues to finish their seasons and avoid suffering a severe financial hit. The idea is that domestic games will be able to resume this summer once the outbreak has hit its peak, which would only be possible if Euro 2020 – scheduled to start in June and run across 12 European cities – was postponed.
It is thought that UEFA will today meet with national football governing bodies, clubs and leagues across the continent to plan their response to the pandemic.
If the domestic seasons are not allowed to finish KPMG predicts that the football leagues in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany stand to take a €4bn hit from lost match day, broadcasting and sponsorship revenue.
Carphone Warehouse shuts all UK stores
Carphone Warehouse is to close all its 531 standalone stores from 3 April, resulting in 2,900 redundancies.
The closures are not caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and are being pitched by parent company Dixons Carphone as the “essential next step” towards making mobile a “sustainable and profitable category”.
The company says it will launch a “new mobile offer” later this year, offering customers “flexibility, transparency and value.”
Carphone Warehouse will continue to exist online and as a store within a store inside 305 PC World and Curry’s stores – both of which are unaffected – with 40% of staff expected to be redeployed to new roles within the wider business. The closure of the 531 standalone stores represents 8% of Dixons Carphone’s total UK selling space.
In a statement, the company said that customers are changing the way they buy mobile devices, replacing handsets less often and buying them separately or as part of more flexible bundles. Dixons Carphone insists that customers are increasingly choosing to shop online and in its big ‘three-in-one’ stores, featuring Currys, PC World and Carphone Warehouse, which are 20 times larger than Carphone Warehouse standalone stores.
“Customers are changing how they buy technology and Dixons Carphone must change with them. We’re underway with a fundamental transformation to do so,” says group chief executive, Alex Baldock.
“Today’s tough decision is an essential part of that, the next step in making our UK mobile business a success for customers, colleagues and other shareholders. Clearly, with unsustainable losses of £90m expected this year, mobile is currently holding back the whole business. There’s never an easy time for an announcement like this, but the turbulent times ahead only underline the importance of acting now.”
Amazon to hire 100,000 extra staff as online demand surges
Amazon plans to hire 100,000 new workers in the US and raise pay for employees in the UK, US and Europe to meet the surging the demand for online orders during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The company plans to increase hourly pay by £2 in the UK, €2 in the EU and $2 in the US until the end of April, at a cost of $350m (£286m), as it hopes to attract workers who have been made redundant from the travel and leisure industries. In the US, these jobs will be in Amazon’s warehouses and delivery networks.
Consumers have turned to online ordering as social distancing measures and remote working have been enforced globally, putting a strain on Amazon’s infrastructure and causing the online giant to sell out of essential products. It has also been hit by technical glitches, been forced to ban sellers profiteering from the coronavirus outbreak and experienced the impact of slowing production across Asia.
In a statement Amazon said that it wanted to welcome as many people as possible who have lost their jobs in the hospitality and travel sectors, explaining that they are welcome to join the team “until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back.”
Iceland, Lidl and Nationwide offer early slots for vulnerable shoppers
Iceland, Lidl Ireland and Nationwide are making special arrangements to give elderly and vulnerable customers exclusive early access to their services immediately after stores have been deep-cleaned.
Tomorrow, Iceland is arranging for its stores to keep the first two hours of trading open exclusively for elderly people (of state pension age) and vulnerable customers, such as those with disabilities. The supermarket chain has been inspired by its West Belfast store, which had already dedicated an hour of early-morning trading to the elderly.
Starting today, Lidl Ireland is implementing priority shopping hours for the elderly across its 163 stores, between 9am to 11am. The measures will include prioritised queuing and additional assistance. The general public are being asked to give vulnerable customers the space and time to pick up the food and supplies they need.
Elsewhere, Nationwide plans to open an hour early from 8am across 100 UK branches for people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions. The idea is to enable the highest risk customers to conduct their day-to-day transactions during the outbreak.
As many older people also rely on public transport, Nationwide is calling on local authorities and the government to consider allowing the elderly to use their free bus passes prior to 9.30am and relaxing parking restrictions on local high streets at the start of the day.
“We understand the current situation is likely to hit the elderly and vulnerable the hardest, not only because of the higher risk of catching coronavirus, but also through potentially feeling isolated from the wider world should this issue continue for a longer period,” says Nationwide’s branch network director, Mandy Beech.
McDonald’s and Starbucks halt dine-in service to enforce social distancing
McDonald’s and Starbucks are limiting their dine-in services in restaurants across the US and shifted to takeaway and delivery in a bid to enforce social distancing as the global coronavirus crisis worsens.
McDonald’s says it is closing the seating areas in all its US company-owned restaurants, including the use of self-service beverage bars and kiosks, and will instead focus on serving customers through Drive-Thru, walk-in take-out and delivery. The fast food giant appealed to its independent franchisees, which operate 95% of its US locations, to follow suit.
It is not known yet whether this measure will be rolled out to the UK.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has said it will close stores for at least two weeks in communities with high numbers of coronavirus cases across the US, as well as shopping centres and university campuses.
The coffee chain has moved to a ‘to go’ model across North America, meaning that sitting in its cafes has been suspended. Orders will be accepted which have been placed at the till, through the Starbucks app and through its Drive-Thru units, or via delivery as part of its partnership with Uber Eats.
The chain says it has taken the move to help “create social distance”.
RBS nabs face of Halifax ‘Extra’ Howard Brown for switcher campaign
Royal Bank of Scotland has signed up Howard Brown, the former face of Halifax’s ‘Extra’ adverts, to front its latest campaign.
Brown promoted RBS’s new £175 switcher offer by posing for selfies with customers at the bank’s branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, before opening his own account. The former branch manager first appeared in Halifax’s advertising campaign in 2000 singing Extra to Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb.
RBS wants to use the campaign to convince customers that switching bank accounts is easy, says Bruno Genovese, head of current accounts: “Switching bank accounts couldn’t be easier and we hope our highest ever guaranteed switcher offer will give an added incentive for those who have been thinking about switching banks – it clearly has for Howard.”
New and existing customers are being offered £175 if they switch their main bank account to RBS by 20 April.
Monday, 16 March
John Lewis pilots Instagram fashion styling service
John Lewis is testing a service offering bookable 15- to 30-minute video calls on Instagram to give customers advice.
Customers will then be sent shoppable links to the items they liked, with purchases either delivered or picked up in a John Lewis or Waitrose shop.
Once fully launched, the individual stylists will invite customers who follow them on Instagram to book appointments. Customers can choose from one of three appointment types: ‘Seasonal Staples’ for recommendations; ‘Upcycle’ for advice on how to upcycle items; and ‘Fashion SOS’ for when customers need an outfit in a hurry and don’t have time to browse online for hours.
John Lewis fashion director Christine Kasoulis says: “We are all so familiar with using Instagram for fashion inspiration, and given many of our fashion stylists already talk directly to customers who follow them on Instagram, this feels like a natural extension of our personal styling service.
“We want to offer this to help customers who would like advice quickly, don’t need a full one hour appointment in a shop and those customers who aren’t near a shop, or find it hard to get to one. If this is popular with women we will expand the service to our male customers.”
The free service is currently being tested with select customers and, if successful, will go live to all customers later this year.
Morrisons to make immediate payments for small suppliers
Morrisons is moving to make immediate payment for its smaller suppliers to help them during the coronavirus.
This means farmers, local foodmakers and other small businesses will be paid early to support cashflow.
The supermarket is also temporarily reclassifying a smaller supplier from those with £100,000 of business-a-year with the company to those with £1m of business, meaning an extra 1,000 small food businesses will qualify for the new payment terms.
Morrisons has around 3,000 small suppliers, including 1,750 farmers that will benefit. The new terms will start this week and are expected to last until the end of May before being reviewed.
Samsung and Happn partner for micro-dating series
Samsung and dating app Happn have teamed up to create the “ultimate micro-dating destination” at Samsung’s experience space in Kings Cross London.
Guests will have their heart rate tracked with a Samsung Galaxy watch during three 10-minute dates, with the experience also including complimentary drinks and virtual ice breakers on Samsung mobile devices.
The #SamsungKX series follows a SamsungKX study that found 40% of Brits restrict themselves to only dating their ‘type on paper’, while 58%, wait up to a month to physically meet their match and 42% say those dates ‘lack a spark’.
“This idea to literally track real chemistry and connections using our technology reaffirms what Samsung KX is all about, a true home of innovation,” says director of Samsung Showcase KX, Tanya Weller.
“It’s experiences like these that really help us connect people and we’re looking forward to bringing more exciting events and workshops to our guests in the very near future.”
Successful couples will be invited to take part in digital activities at the ‘Connection Corner’ pop-up on Thursday 19 March, which is when the series ends.
Red Letter Days supports perinatal mental health in Mother’s Day campaign
Red Letter Days is launching a Mother’s Day campaign in partnership with maternal mental health charity Pandas to raise awareness of perinatal mental health.
As part of the #HeyMum campaign, the public is being asked to write cards containing words of encouragement and support to new mums, which can be posted in one of 20 bespoke Red Letter Days post boxes across the UK.
The cards will be delivered to groups of new and expectant mums on Mother’s Day. A fifth of the sales from selected Red Letter Days Mother’s Day gifts, bought between 9 and 22 March, will also go directly to Pandas.
“Becoming a Mother is an exciting and joyful occasion but it’s also incredibly common for new mothers to feel isolated, anxious or lonely,” says Red Letter Days’s marketing director Alison Vickery.
“The number of women suffering from perinatal illness is something we need to speak more openly about. We therefore want to use this Mother’s Day – which will be a first for many – to raise awareness, build connections and empower new mums with support and encouragement.”
UK supermarkets ask customers to buy responsibly
British food retailers have written a joint letter to their customers asking them to be considerate in the way they shop in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter, which was published in adverts in national newspapers on Sunday and Monday, also hopes to reassure customers about the extra steps being taken by retailers.
It reads: “We know that many of you are worried about the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). We want to let you know that we are doing everything we can so that you and your families have the food and essentials you need.
“We are working closely with government and our suppliers to keep food moving quickly through the system and making more deliveries to our stores to ensure our shelves are stocked. Those of us with online delivery and click-and-collect services are running them at full capacity to help you get the products you need when you need them.
“We thank all our colleagues in stores and supply chains who are working day and night to keep the nation fed.
“But we need your help too.
“We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.
“Together we can make sure we are looking out for family, friends, neighbours. Together we will care for those around us and those who are elderly, vulnerable or choosing to remain at home.
“We are doing all we can to rise to this challenge. Serving you and keeping you and everyone who works with us safe will always be our priority.”