Next today partially reopened its online business, after putting safety measures into place in its warehouse and distribution network.
From today the retailer is selling products in categories that it says its customers most need. Those initially include childrenswear and small home items. Other ranges may be added in the future.
Next says that only those staff who are “willing and able” to return to work safely are currently working. “The idea is to begin selling in low volumes so that we only need a small number of colleagues in each warehouse at any one time, helping to ensure rigorous social distancing is complied with,” it said in a statement today.
The fashion-to-homewares business has worked with staff and the recognised on-site union Usdaw before reopening. Extra safety measures are illustrated in two videos. The first is on the Next website and is aimed at customers.
The measures, which have been put into place over the last two weeks, include staggered entry to warehouses, where social distancing is in place. There are extra sinks, new rest areas to allow more space for workers, sanitising stations and a ‘keep clean’ kit that each member of staff uses to clean their own work area at the start of a shift, ensuring that it is sterile for them. Staff are instructed to keep two metres apart and to wash and sanitise their hands regularly and there’s new signage around the warehouse and a one-way system.
Next will only allow customers to order the number of items that it believes can be picked safely on a given day. At that point, the website will be converted to ‘browse only’ until the next day.
“If you follow the guidelines that we have put in place and remember the two safety rules – keep two metres apart and wash and sanitise your rules – you will minimise the risk to yourself and your colleagues.”
Next, an Elite retailer in RXUK Top500 research, was among a number of fashion retailers that closed their online businesses in the same March week that stores closed. When it shuttered its site at the end of business on March 26, it said it had listened to warehousing and distribution staff who felt they should be at home. Since then, it’s now clear, the retailer has been putting in place measures designed to improve the safety of those at work. But it’s a measure of how far Next has limited its capacity from normal that by shortly after 10am this morning, the retailer had already capped its orders for the day.
MRG research has tracked the response of 300 websites to the Covid-19 coronavirus and in a webinar last Thursday reported that 16 of the 300 were closed for business as of April 3. That was down from 19 on March 27. The change had come as some retailers that did initially close reopened their warehouses following measures to increase social distancing, including Dunelm, also ranked Elite in RXUK Top500 research.
Main image and video courtesy of Next
Bottom image: screenshot of Next.co.uk