Lego, Asda, Estée Lauder: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.

LegoLego launches braille bricks

Lego is launching a braille version of its bricks as it looks to help visually impaired children to learn.

The new bricks are the same shape as the regular ones, but the studs on top have been rearranged.

“The bricks are moulded so that the studs on top reflect individual letters and numbers in the braille alphabet while remaining fully compatible with the Lego system,” a spokesperson for the toymaker says.

The bricks also feature a printed version of the symbol or letter.

The move is aimed at encouraging blind and visually impaired children to explore new ways of learning to read and write, and will be released across seven countries.

“With thousands of audio books and computer programmes on the market today, fewer young people are learning braille. Yet individuals with blindness or impaired vision all over the world rely on braille to work, study and enjoy their daily lives to the fullest,” says the company.

The new bricks will be sold first in Brazil, the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and the US, before being extended to another 13 countries in early 2021.

In 2019, Lego allocated 25% of its earnings to the Lego Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children.

READ MORE: Lego launches braille version of its plastic bricks

Retail giants battle for £6.5bn Asda private equity bids

Two retail giants are going head-to-head in a £6bn battle to buy Asda.

Paul Mason, who was chief executive of Asda 20 years ago, is fronting an approach for the supermarket with Lone Star, the US private equity fund that has a track record of doing large property deals. Meanwhile Rob Templeman, former chief executive of Debenhams, is advising a rival private equity firm Apollo Global Investors on a bid.

Asda has been owned by Walmart, the US retail giant, since 1999. However, Walmart is looking to reduce its stake in Asda after a merger with Sainsbury’s was blocked by competition regulators.

It is unclear whether Templeman or Mason would take an active role at Asda after any deal was concluded, but it is thought either could take the role of chairman.

The auction of Asda is likely to conclude before the end of the year, and is expected to involve Walmart retaining a minority stake. Asda is Britain’s third largest supermarket chain behind Tesco and Sainsbury’s with around 300 stores.

READ MORE: £6.5bn Asda auction lures heavyweight retail bosses into rival bids

Estée Lauder to cut 2,000 staff and close stores

Estée Lauder is to cut up to 2,000 staff and shut 15% of its stores after coronavirus hit sales.

The owner of Mac and Too Faced makeup says it wants to invest in online after stores were hit by global lockdowns and demand dried up as customers stayed at home.

Revenues fell 32% to $2.4bn in the final quarter of its financial year covering March to June. For the year to June as a whole, sales of its makeup brands fell 18%.

The job losses are expected to come in at between 1,500 and 2,000, and are linked  to plans to cut 15% of its global store space.

Coronavirus offset the 5% growth the company posted in the first half of the year in the run-up to Christmas, according to the company, with foundations and lip products among those worst affected.

READ MORE: Beauty chain Estée Lauder to cut 2,000 high street jobs and close 15% of stores

Puma ambassadors talk about racism

Sports company Puma has brought together three of its ambassadors to discuss racism.

Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, Olympian Tommie Smith and former footballer Thierry Henry all discuss how racism has affected them on Puma’s #Reform platform.

Puma’s global director of brand and marketing, Adam Petrick, says: “We knew it was imperative to highlight the stories of our athletes and ambassadors and bring them together to exchange personal stories, ideas for change, and educate the wider community.”

Puma is giving its brand ambassadors the chance to talk about causes and to encourage conversations around issues such as universal equality through Reform with the hope of encouraging more honest conversation.

In the discussion Henry explains:  “At some point, people didn’t see my colour anymore because I was playing football. When I went somewhere where people didn’t recognise me, my colour came back.”

Hamilton also talks about his experience as the only black driver in the predominantly white world of race car driving, while Smith outlines his vision for an inclusive future.

One in six UK workers returning to office in cities

Just one in six workers have returned to offices in cities this summer despite prime minister Boris Johnson’s encouragements.

Companies and staff are ignoring government pleas to return as new research reveals that worker footfall in Britain’s cities was just 17% of pre-lockdown levels in the first two weeks of August.

Office attendance flatlined despite the government abandoning its “work from home” guidance on 1 August and Johnson personally urging staff to return.

The data, compiled by the Centre for Cities think tank, shows that the change in advice on 1 August had no impact on average worker footfall in the 63 largest cities and towns in the UK.

The figures do show a recovery in overall footfall, including weekend and night time visitors, since July, when pubs and non-essential retailers were able to re-open.

The national capitals are among the lowest-scoring, with worker footfall at just 13% in London, 14% in Cardiff and Edinburgh, and 18% in Belfast.

In central London and Manchester, early August weekday footfall rose by just one percentage point compared to early July.

Leeds, Bristol and Nottingham all saw no change, and in Birmingham city centre the number of workers fell.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Just one in six back in the office in cities as Boris Johnson’s ‘return to work’ plea ignored

Thursday, 20 August

Airbnb prepares to float despite pandemic fallout

Airbnb has filed preliminary paperwork for selling stock to become a public company, according to The Guardian.

The home-sharing platform has submitted a draft registration statement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The company had been preparing an IPO (initial public offering) document when the Covid-19 outbreak hit the US in March.

The pandemic caused a slump in demand for Airbnb properties. CEO Brian Chesky has said that revenue in 2020 may be half that of 2019. The company shed around a quarter of its workforce in May.

However, demand has been gaining ground since, with some customers perceiving home rentals as being safer than crowded hotels. “Our business has not recovered, but we are seeing encouraging signs,” said Airbnb in a post on its website last month.

READ MORE: Airbnb prepares to go public despite pandemic struggles

Programmatic now accounts for two-fifths of digital media spen

Programmatic trading now accounts for more than two fifths of global digital media spend by major multinationals, according to the latest figures from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

The WFA’s Programmatic, Data and Technology Global Survey 2020 – the fourth year the study has run – shows that among WFA members programmatic trading channels account for 41% of digital media investment.

The survey was conducted in partnership with ad technology and infrastructure group IPONWEB, based on responses from 37 companies with a combined annual marketing spend of $76bn.

The report highlights an uneven pace in the adoption of programmatic, with some regions lagging behind. Trends this year include an increase in the use of independent trading desks to buy media programmatically – up from 46% in 2016 to 71% this year – and a drive towards more transparent working.

The survey has a special focus on the APAC region this year, one of the areas that has been slower to adopt programmatic trends.

“Advertisers have been on a steep learning curve with the arrival of programmatic, but many are now taking greater control of the process through an expanding mix of in-house, hybrid and agency models,” says WFA director of marketing services, Asia Pacific, Ranji David.

“Whichever model they choose, transparency of the supply chain is critical so that they can assess which elements are contributing to their business growth and marketing ROI as outlined in the WFA’s global media charter.”

Youth ditching university plans amid pandemic says Samsung

Samsung Galaxy 8Nearly three quarters of young people have changed their education plans due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with 41% deciding not to go to university, according to Samsung’s Alternative Careers Guide, launched today.

The brand found that teenagers today aspire to roles such as influencer, app developer and video games designer, with digital and tech careers attractive to a generation where half already expect to have more than one career. Being a drone pilot or 3D prop designer are also popular choices.

Some 3,000 16-18 year olds took part in the study, which found a generation fearful that the pandemic will leave them facing mass unemployment in the future.

Most think that traditional 9-5 working patterns will be a thing of the past within five years, and more than half would not consider working for a company with strict 9-5 working hours. Nearly four fifths (78%) said they would choose a job based on work/life balance over one with a high salary.

“There is a lot to think about when furthering your studies or planning your first career move, and the current uncertainty we are all facing makes it all the more challenging,” says Samsung Europe people team vice president, Tess Smillie.

Blackberry phones getting another last chance

BlackberryMobile phone hardware brand Blackberry – which has made several comebacks since its ubiquity was eclipsed by Apple’s iPhone – is to launch a new device next year.

Security startup OnwardMobility is working with Blackberry to develop a 5G smartphone with a physical keyboard, scheduled to hit European and US markets in the first half of 2021, reports Engadget. An earlier Blackberry licensing deal, with TCL, ended in February this year.

“BlackBerry is thrilled OnwardMobility will deliver a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with physical keyboard leveraging our high standards of trust and security synonymous with our brand,” says BlackBerry CEO John Chen.

READ MORE: Blackberry phones are back, baby

StubHub rapped by CMA over ‘misleading’ messages

Ticket reselling company StubHub has been threatened with court action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which found the company was using “misleading” messages on its website. StubHub has been forced to add warnings that the tickets it offers may be invalid.

The Guardian reports that the CMA is now satisfied, after a warning was added to the effect that tickets bought on StubHub may not gain the buyer access to an event. StubHub was also required to remove claims that tickets were scarcer than they in fact were and add accurate information about seating locations.

A StubHub spokeswoman is reported as saying: “We are pleased that the CMA has confirmed that StubHub has addressed the CMA’s concerns. We have worked closely with the CMA to evolve our site in the best interest of our customers.”

Some critics have argued that the CMA did not go far enough to protect customers.

READ MORE: StubHub forced to add warning that resold tickets might be invalid

Wednesday, 19 August

Coca-Cola puts focus on home viewing in new Premier League campaign

Coca-Cola Great Britain has launched the latest campaign around its Premier League football sponsorship, encouraging people to turn their homes into their club’s ‘home end’ as preparations get under way for the start of the 2020/21 season.

The campaign, ‘Make your home the home end’, has enlisted the help of footballers including Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Alex Scott. In a series of ads, they appear the homes of fans watching Premier League games. The campaign will run across radio, digital, outdoor and on Sky TV.

All the footballers will appear in brand campaigns throughout the season, as well as Coca-Cola’s Euro 2020 campaign next summer. Coca-Cola is also launching an on-pack promotion offering people the chance to win their team’s shirt.

Coca-Cola Great Britain senior brand manager Oliver Bridge says: “Millions of people watch the Premier League from their homes each week and more than ever, we know many fans would love to be watching their club in stadiums. We hope the launch of the campaign will help make the home viewing experience as enjoyable as possible by making their home end atmosphere extra special.”

Amazon brings full Morrisons range online

Amazon is stepping up its focus on the UK grocery market by putting Morrisons on its main website, offering its customers access to free same-day deliveries.

The two companies have worked together since 2016, with Morrisons initially wholesaling fresh, chilled and frozen groceries to Amazon. That was extended to offer same-day deliver on Amazon’s Prime app.

Now, however, the service is being made available on Amazon’s main website. It will give Amazon Prime customers access to same-day deliveries on orders above £40 and access to the full Morrisons range, rather than the limited range on the app.

Morrisons CEO David Potts says: “Morrisons on Amazon will build on our partnership with Amazon, making our good quality, great value food even more accessible through and the Amazon app.

“It will give more and more customers the option of receiving Morrisons groceries straight to their doorstep, including freshly prepared products from our brilliant Market Street colleagues.”

Tesco Mobile partners with Crisis to help those experiencing homelessness

Tesco Mobile is partnering with Crisis with the aim of combating issues around digital exclusion for those experiencing homelessness.

The partnership will see Tesco Mobile donation £700,000 worth of phones, devices and connectivity over the next year to help the more than 170,000 families and individuals who are homeless. It comes as a study into the impact of coronavirus shows that homeless charities and organisations have seen an increase in people experiencing digital exclusion and needing extra support.

Three-quarters of charities also say a lack of digital technology or internet is impacting their ability to support homeless people, with Tesco Mobile planning to use its expertise to help Crisis develop its services.

Tesco Mobile is also encouraging its customers to get involved. A new ‘Home for all’ campaign will ask people to donate their old smartphone and text to donate.

Tesco Mobile CEO Tom Denyard says: “At Tesco Mobile we care for human connection. We believe passionately that everyone has the right to be connected and that mobile connection brings us all closer to other people, to society, and provides access to essential services.

“For many people living without a permanent home, digital connection is a necessary lifeline. An important part of our partnership with Crisis will be in helping to deliver connectivity to those who need it most.”

Oracle in talks to buy TikTok

The competition to buy popular video app TikTok’s is heating up, with Oracle reportedly joining the list of companies interested in acquiring its US operations.

Oracle has reportedly met with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance and is working with some of the app’s investors on a deal for its operations in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Microsoft was already working on a partial takeover of TikTok, while reports suggested Twitter was already interested. The interest comes after US president Donald Trump ordered the firm to sell its US operations within 90 days or face being shut down, citing national security concerns.

TikTok is also hoping to see off Trump’s threats with the launch of its biggest marketing campaign yet. The ‘It Starts on TikTok’ campaign highlights creators on the platform and will run across social media, TV, outdoor and digital.

“We basically wanted to celebrate the community and the creators who have made TikTok part of culture,” says Nick Tran, TikTok’s head of global marketing.

READ MORE: Oracle enters race to buy TikTok’s US operations (£)

Asda to focus on ecommerce as market share slides

Asda is increasing its focus on ecommerce with plans to increase its online sales capacity by 50% next year as it looks to halt a slide in market share.

The supermarket, which is owned by US grocer Walmart, doubled its online capacity during the pandemic to 700,000 orders per week. It plans for that number to reach 740,000 by Christmas and 1 million by the end of 2021.

Despite expanding its online operation, Asda’s sales growth has lagged the market. In the quarter to 30 June, same-store sales were up 3.8%. Rival Sainsbury’s, by comparison, saw like-for-like sales rise 8.2% in the three months to 27 June.

READ MORE: Asda to focus on ecommerce as growth trails that of rivals

m&s mobile

M&S to cut 7,000 jobs

Marks & Spencer is cutting 7,000 jobs over the next three months across its stores and management due to a “material shift in trade” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The high street retailer expects a “significant proportion” of the jobs to go through voluntary redundancy and early retirement, explaining that operating during the pandemic had showed it could work “more flexibly and productively” by asking staff to move between the food, clothing and home departments.

The redundancies will come in the chain’s central support centre, as well as across regional management and its UK stores. The retailer does, however, expect to create “a number of new jobs” as it invests in online fulfilment and its new ambient food warehouse, as well as through the restructure of its store portfolio over the course of the year.

While online sales have held up, M&S says in-store sales of clothing and home products are “well below” 2019 levels and it must therefore “act to reflect this change”.

In July, M&S said it was potentially cutting 950 store management and head office roles to accelerate its restructure plans.

Chief executive Steve Rowe describes the job cuts as an “important step in becoming a leaner, faster business”.

“In May we outlined our plans to learn from the crisis, accelerate our transformation and deliver a stronger, more agile business in a world in which some customer habits were changed forever,” he adds. “Three months on and our ‘Never the Same Again’ programme is progressing; albeit the outlook is uncertain and we remain cautious.”

READ MORE: M&S to cut 7,000 jobs over next three months

Diageo splashes out $610m in deal to buy Aviation American Gin

Diageo aviation-gin-ryan

Diageo has struck a deal worth $610m (£466m) to acquire Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin brand through the purchase of Aviation Gin and Davos Brands.

The deal includes an initial payment of $335m (£256m) and a further pay-out of $275m (£210m) based on the performance of Aviation American Gin over a 10-year period, reflective of the brand’s current growth trajectory and expected potential.

Aviation American Gin, in which Reynolds acquired a stake in 2018, is the second largest brand in the US super-premium gin segment and grew volumes by over 100% in 2019, contributing 40% of super premium gin segment growth. Reynolds will retain an ongoing interest in the company, which he grew through his company, Maximum Effort Marketing.

The acquisition of Davos Brands, the majority owner of Aviation American Gin, brings with it a wider portfolio of “super premium” spirits including Astral Tequila, Sombra Mezcal and TYKU Sake. According to Diageo, the deal with Davos Brands provides the opportunity for the further development of other brands in the portfolio, given that Davos “specialises in identifying key trends and early stage brands”.

The drinks giant has its eyes firmly set on the super-premium sector of the gin category, which it describes as the “fastest growing spirits segment” in the US.

“The acquisition of Aviation American Gin and the Davos Brands portfolio is in line with our strategy to acquire high growth brands with attractive margins that support premiumisation,” says Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes.

“We are confident that Aviation American Gin will continue to shape and drive the growth of super premium gin in North America and we are looking forward to working with Ryan Reynolds and the Davos Brands team to accelerate future growth.”

Online drives £678m increase in FMCG spending at UK supermarkets

UK shoppers spent £678m more on FMCG at UK supermarkets during the four weeks to 8 August compared to 2019, 97% of which (£658m) was spent online. By comparison, store sales rose by £20m, according to the latest Nielsen figures.

Over the last four weeks, in-store sales growth overall remained flat at 0.3%, while online grocery growth accelerated by 117%, maintaining its 14% share of all FMCG sales.

According to Nielsen, total supermarket sales were up 7% in the month to 8 August, as shoppers settled into new shopping routines following the lockdown period, continued to work from home and embarked on UK summer ‘staycations’. During the same period last year, sales grew by 1%.

In terms of the ‘big four’ supermarkets, Morrisons (sales up 13.6%) continues to perform strongest, although Iceland (24.4%) has seen the highest growth overall. Discounters Aldi (10.8%) and Lidl (9.1%) are showing signs of steady growth, driven almost entirely by in-store sales.

Sales of fresh meat, fish and poultry rose by 13% during the period, while demand for packaged grocery products (14%) has surpassed sales of frozen food (12%) for the first time since April. Sales of beers, wines and spirits increased by 20%.

The shopping habits that developed as a result of the pandemic, in particular shopping online, appear here to stay, says Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins, who expects current levels of growth to continue for the rest of the summer.

“Shoppers are still shopping less often than they did prior to the pandemic, visits to stores are down 15% on the same period last year, but up from the 22% decrease registered in May, so there are signs of a willingness to return,” Watkins adds.

“The shift to online grocery shopping, which looks set to stay, is the most dramatic change of shopping behaviour we’ve ever seen. Though it has clearly been a positive gamechanger for shoppers and some retailers, it has come at the expense of stores – something that we have already seen in non-food retailing.”

Morrisons poised to cut plastic bags permanently

MorrisonsMorrisons is rolling out a 12-week trial that could see it remove plastic bags permanently from its 494 UK stores.

Starting yesterday, the supermarket has removed all plastic bags at the checkouts in eight supermarkets, offering consumers 30p paper bags instead. If the trial is successful, Morrisons could remove all plastic bags at its checkouts, saving 90 million a year from being used and removing 3,510 tonnes of plastic. The supermarket is working to a goal of cutting its use of plastic by 50% by 2025.

The paper bags, which were rolled out nationally last year and are strong enough to carry up to 16kg, are now typically chosen by one in three customers.

Chief executive, David Potts, says the supermarket believes customers are ready to stop using plastic carrier bags as they want to “reduce the amount of plastic they have in their lives”.

“We know that many are taking reusable bags back to store and if they forget these, we have paper bags that are tough, convenient and a reusable alternative,” he adds.

READ MORE: Morrisons considers removing plastic bags in favour of paper alternatives

Victoria’s Secret accused of ‘copying’ London label

Victoria’s Secret has been accused of selling designs with “distinct signature elements” of London-based lingerie brand Edge O’Beyond.

Responding to the accusation, which was made on the Instagram account of self-appointed fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada, the label’s founder Naomi De Haan told The Guardian “the pieces are so similar”. She also noted an order on the Edge O’Beyond website from someone in the Victoria’s Secret creative team in the US, describing the chain as acting “unethically and immorally.”

“It is terrible that huge corporations like Victoria’s Secret are stealing from small independent businesses like mine, especially during the era of BLM, preying on an independent black business when they have a huge team of designers to hand,” said De Haan.

Diet Prada also pointed to founder and designer of the LA-based d.bleu.dazzled lingerie brand, Destiney Bleu, who claims her business received orders from a customer “with the same name as Victoria’s Secret vice-president of design”. The billing address for the order is said to have matched the company’s headquarters.

The UK arm of Victoria’s Secret fell into administration in June with £466m in debt owed to 208 separate creditors. While as many as 30 companies are said to be interested in becoming the UK franchise partner for the ailing brand, including Marks & Spencer, Next emerged last month as the preferred candidate. The deal is set to be finalised by the end of September.

READ MORE: Victoria’s Secret accused of stealthy copying of designs

Cadbury strikes deal with Arsenal FC

Arsenal X Cadbury 1Cadbury has become the official snacking partner of Arsenal Football Club, in a global partnership aimed at supporting local business.

The chocolate giant is teaming up with the Little Wonder Café, located opposite the Emirates Stadium, which was forced to temporarily close for the first time in its 100-year history during lockdown and has since been struggling due to the loss of match day custom.

To support the café, Cadbury has bought 500 Little Wonder meal vouchers that will be donated to Arsenal in the Community. The vouchers will be used to reward workers for their support locally during the lockdown, as well as participants who benefit from the programmes offered by Arsenal FC.

Cadbury also plans to donate digital sponsorship assets from the partnership to the Little Wonder Café next season, which will include promotion in email newsletters, digital advertising and advertising in matchday programmes. The first 500 customers to eat at the café following this announcement will receive a complimentary Arsenal branded bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk.

In addition, Cadbury will be offering Arsenal fans access to their club through promotions such as Cadbury’s Match and Win. Running across more than 180 million Cadbury products, fans will have the chance to win millions of club prizes, including hospitality experiences, match tickets and vouchers redeemable in The Armoury gift shop and online store.

“This partnership marks the coming together of three businesses that believe in generosity and the difference we can make together,” says Cadbury global brand director, Samantha Greenwood.

“We are excited that through our sponsorship of Arsenal Football Club, we can make such a difference to the Little Wonder Café, and all together, the Islington area. Small businesses play a pivotal cultural and economic role in the recovery of local communities, and the UK as a whole, so we are proud to do our part in supporting them.”

Cadbury, which struck a three-year sponsorship deal with the Premier League in 2017, earlier this month announced a partnership with Arsenal’s rivals Manchester City, aimed initially at celebrating individuals and businesses who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.

Monday, 17 August 

Tesco social distance

Tesco to start free home delivery

Tesco is introducing free home delivery to members of its premium loyalty scheme, pitching it against Amazon.

The UK’s largest supermarket charges £4.50 for a delivery slot, but its chief executive, Dave Lewis, says it hopes to scrap the fees for the millions of shoppers who have signed up to Clubcard Plus.

Earlier this month, Amazon revealed plans to expand its online grocery service Amazon Fresh, which offers fruit and vegetables, cheese and bakery, with free and faster delivery to the 15 million subscribers to its Prime membership scheme.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Lewis said: “I understand the move [from Amazon]. The idea of Prime is very similar to where we are in Clubcard Plus, in terms of bringing a whole bunch of benefits together. So an opportunity into the future for us is to think about how we put delivery into Clubcard Plus. That’s always been the direction of travel.”

Last November, Tesco launched Clubcard Plus, a top-tier loyalty scheme. For a monthly fee of £7.99, members are rewarded with a 10% discount on two shops of up to £200 each.

The scheme has been compared with Amazon Prime, for which members pay £79 a year for extras such as faster delivery and streaming services.

£ READ MORE: Tesco lines up free delivery to fight threat from Amazon

Selfridges launches sustainability plan

Selfridges is launching a sustainability plan in part due to “people changing” after coronavirus.

The premium retailer, which recently cut 450 jobs after a tough year, is introducing clothing rental, a second-hand fashion shop, beauty pack recycling and a “concierge” to help organise product repairs as part of a five-year sustainability plan.

Project Earth is the brand’s five-year sustainability plan, which it hopes will address its environmental impact and prove to consumers it is willing to do more.

Selfridges managing director Anne Pitcher says: “The pandemic has changed everybody’s thinking forever.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as [shopping online] and not walking into stores any more. [Consumers] will shop with businesses that they trust, that they know care, businesses that they feel are their friends or that they can relate to, businesses that choose doing the right thing over making money, and businesses who are transparent in the way they do business.”

Selfridges joins a range of brands from John Lewis and Ikea to Gucci that have stepped up their ethical profile. The department store also signed up to the Fashion Pact launched at last year’s G7 meeting in which more than 20 brands, including Gucci, H&M and Zara’s owner Inditex promised to address their environmental impact.

READ MORE: Selfridges launches Project Earth to connect with its ethical consumers

Yo! Sushi to shut restaurants

Sushi chain Yo! Sushi is planning to shut 19 of its sites and cut up to 250 jobs in a bid to protect its long-term future.

The restaurant chain, which has 59 restaurants and 10 concessions across the UK, announced the cuts as part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring process.

It said that sites earmarked for closure are “no longer financially viable” and have unsustainable rental costs in the current trading environment.

The group shut its sites temporarily in the face of the pandemic in March, before starting to reopen last month with a new model in place to deliver food to customers in line with safety regulations.

Its chief executive officer, Richard Hodgson, says: “Like the rest of the sector, we need to take decisive action to adapt to the lasting changes that the Covid pandemic has brought about.

“While we have already taken measures to reduce costs, rents remain an issue. In the current climate, it’s just not viable for us to keep any sites that no longer perform.”

READ MORE: Yo! Sushi to shut restaurants and cut 250 jobs

Debenhams hires liquidator in contingency plan

Debenhams is facing liquidation as it appoints a firm to draw up contingency plans.

The retailer, which is in administration, has hired Hilco Capital, a firm that specialises in winding up struggling retailers. Debenhams said it was “trading strongly” and Hilco’s appointment did not mean a liquidation was likely.

Since lockdown started, the retailer has announced store closures and job cuts last week saying it would axe 2,500 more jobs, on top of 4,000 cuts it announced in May.

Debenhams filed for administration in April. A spokesperson for the department store says: “Debenhams is trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash position.”

READ MORE: Debenhams hires restructuring firm for potential liquidation