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British Fashion Retailer Next Resumes E-Commerce Operations — but Limits Orders to Protect Warehouse Staff

After several weeks of shuttered e-commerce operations, Next is back in business.

The British fashion retailer, which does annual sales of £3.9 billion ($4.8 billion), announced today that it is resuming online sales after having implemented additional safety measures. Warehouse workers are keeping two meters (6.5 feet) away from each other, and Next has added more sanitizers and sinks in its facilities, the company said. Additionally, the retailer is limiting the number of orders per day and is currently only offering select items, including children’s apparel and accessories as well as home goods.

“In order to operate our warehouse safely, we are limiting the number of warehouse colleagues working at any time, and so we will limit the number of customer orders we can take each day,” the company wrote on its website.

On March 26, Next posted a notice on its site alerting customers that it was no longer accepting orders, just days after its physical units were shuttered on March 23.

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“We have listened carefully to our colleagues in our warehouses and distribution operations,” it read. “It is clear that many increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate. As a result, we have taken the difficult decision to close our warehouse and distribution operations until further notice.”

Like Next, footwear brand Schuh, off-price chain TK Maxx — the European sibling of TJ Maxx in the U.S.— and fast-fashion retailer River Island have temporarily suspended their online sales business during the coronavirus crisis. Schuh and River Island are both taking orders again, although they warn of delivery delays. River Island says its warehouses remain closed, while TK Maxx, which is owned by The TJX Companies, remains unable to take online orders.

Across the board, British fashion brands and retailers are feeling the heat amidst the coronavirus outbreak. According to a Global Data report from March, one-fifth of U.K. fashion spend could be wiped out for 2020 because of the virus. Global Data added that apparel and footwear sales could fall by 11.1 billion pounds ($13.5 billion) in 2020 compared to 2019.

The United Kingdom has been on lockdown since March 24. While other European coronavirus hot spots are beginning to loosen some restrictions, reports have indicated that the U.K. is likely to keep stay-at-home orders in effect through early May or later. According to Johns Hopkins data, there have been nearly 95,000 known coronavirus infections in the country, with over 12,100 deaths reported.

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