Winter rescue plan, Premier Inn and Beefeater, Nike, banking sector, covid-19 app: your commercial news round-up

updated on 24 September 2020

It seems like the UK has taken a U-turn as the government announced new restrictions earlier this week in a bid to tackle the pandemic. As well as enforced 10:00pm closing for pubs and restaurants, the government is encouraging people to work from home again and socialising in groups larger than six people has also been banned following a surge in coronavirus cases. As the world continues to grapple with the virus, keeping up to date with its impact on the business and legal worlds is increasingly important. You can read summaries of some of this week’s top stories below.

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to reveal a new multibillion-pound winter rescue plan later today. The package will include wage subsidies for part-time workers, VAT cuts and additional loans for businesses that are struggling. Sunak’s plan will be implemented in an attempt to avoid mass redundancies this winter. A Germany-style subsidy scheme is also likely to be included to support those returning to work on a part-time basis.  
  • Owner of Premier Inn and Beefeater, Whitbread, has announced that 6,000 employees could lose their jobs following a fall in guest numbers since March. The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which three quarters of Whitbread’s 35,000 staff are still in part paid through, will end in October. Whitbread Boss Alison Brittain said: "With demand for travel remaining subdued, we are now having to make some very difficult decisions, and it is with great regret that today we are announcing our intention to enter into a consultation process that could result in up to 6,000 redundancies in the UK, of which it is hoped that a significant proportion can be achieved voluntarily."

Staff working at JD Weatherspoon’s airport venues have also been warned that almost 50% of their jobs could be lost due to a slump in travel and tourism.

  • Nike’s online sales rose 82% during the June to August quarter. The firm’s chief executive John Donahoe believes that the transition to online sales will be a permanent one. He said: "We know that digital is the new normal. The consumer today is digitally grounded and simply will not revert back." The sportswear company reported revenue of £8.3 billion earlier in the week, following a fall in revenue in its previous quarter due to store closures and global lockdowns.
  • Meanwhile, there has been a slump in the share prices of some of the world’s largest banks following reports that they have allegedly been involved in the transfer of illicit funds over a period spanning nearly two decades. Early trading in London on Monday saw shares in Barclays fall by 4% and a 3% drop in shares for HSBC and Standard Chartered.
  • After months of delays, the government’s NHS contract-tracing app has been officially launched as UK coronavirus cases hit 6,178 on Wednesday. Anyone aged 16 and over is being urged to install the app on their smartphone. Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Everybody who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves, helping to protect their loved ones, helping to protect their community because the more people who download it, the more effective it will be.” The app is available only for smartphones and can be downloaded by searching “NHS Covid-19” via Android’s Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

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