Mar 25, 2020
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Fenwick stops web sales as nascent e-tail ops are run from stores

Mar 25, 2020

The coronavirus crisis looks like it will hit upscale department store chain Fenwick very hard as the company is now shutting its webstore in addition to its physical stores.


The venerable department store chain was late to the online sales revolution and now will be unable to take advantage of an expected e-commerce boom as physical shops stay closed for the foreseeable future.

The nine-store chain said late on Tuesday that it's temporarily suspending its online operations. The news came five days after it closed its physical shops.

The problem for the company is that its online orders are serviced from its physical shops, rather than from distribution centres as is the case with many other multichannel retailers. That made it harder for the company to put in place social distancing measures.

In an online announcement, the company said: “The coronavirus has turned our world as we know it upside down and will continue to have major impact for many weeks to come. We now, unfortunately, need to temporarily suspend our online operation. We are a family owned business and we work a bit differently to some shops and online retailers. 

“We have tried to keep our online business running to serve you — we don’t have huge warehouses and automated systems but a group of dedicated workers who hand-pick the items you purchase from one of our designated stores. We realise a number of you have orders outstanding with us and we will be getting in touch as soon as we can to discuss these. Our website won’t close entirely. Our writers, creators and editors working remotely can continue to create and share delightful content while we adjust to this new way of life.”

The fact that the company only recently launched online sales means that they currently don't make up a significant percentage of its overall turnover. But at present that turnover is non-existent.

The company swung to a loss in its latest year for which we have results, although it's hard to get any clarity on its current situation as those results only covered the 12 months to January 2019. Its losses came after it invested heavily in its operations to position it for future growth. That included the launch, finally, of its webstore, many years after rivals had begun selling online.

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