Love is more important than ever at times like these, Beaverbrooks managing director Anna Blackburn reminds us as she announces the decision to close all 69 of its UK stores.
Brian Duffy, CEO of The Watches of Switzerland Group, has expressed his gratitude to his thousands of employees for their resilience, resourcefulness and positivity throughout this period. All stores in the United States and the UK will be closed by the end of today and the company does not expect them to re-open any earlier than April 27.
Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths, Mayors and Beaverbrooks are focusing on serving customers through their websites, which remains open for orders and deliveries, and concierge services.
“Our website and our fabulous customer service team are still 100% here for you,” Ms Blackburn says. However, “The safety and wellbeing of our customers, our colleagues and the wider community remain our top priority and we want to do what’s best by them. So it is with an extremely heavy heart that we’ve taken the decision to close all of our 69 stores from 5pm Monday 23rd March,” she adds.
The Watches of Switzerland Group (WOSG) has over 140 stores in the UK and United States.
In a trading update to the stock market and media, the company says sales have increased ahead of expectations in the seven weeks to March 15, with revenue up 16.8% relative to the prior year and like-for-like sales up 12%.
New guidance says the group currently expects total revenue for the full financial year to 26 April 2020 to be in the range of £809 million to £812 million.
As the Covid-19 outbreak has escalated, the group says its sites in London airports were adversely affected.
Key destinations including London and Los Angeles were also hardest hit, but the impact was offset by a rise in sales to domestic customers both in the UK and the US. There is no guidance on how sales have been in the week since March 15, during which social isolating measures in the UK and the USA have been stepped up significantly, with New York in lock-down. All stores in America closed on March 19.
WOSG says its balance sheet sheet is strong and it has significant financial headroom and liquidity.
But it has taken steps to eliminate discretionary expenditure, reduce working capital and where possible, delay capital projects.
It welcomes government measures announced in the UK of business rates suspension, employee cost support and tax payment deferrals, which are expected to have a positive impact on cash planning.
The Group has taken steps to ensure the continuity of the ecommerce proposition, with online operations expected to be continued as normal,” a WOSG statement says.
“Our priority is the health and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers during these unprecedented times. We are taking the necessary steps to mitigate and minimise the impact of this crisis on our business,” Mr Duffy says.
“We are anticipating a continuation of the store closures into our new financial year which begins on 27 April 2020. We remain confident in the strong fundamentals that underpin the luxury watch category including its great value preservation. Demand remains strong and we anticipate that this will be the case when the market returns to more normal conditions,” he adds.