Next forced to shutter site just hours after reopening

Next directoryNext has learned the hard way that British consumers are crazy for “non-essential” shops to reopen after being forced to stop taking online orders just hours after its website reopened in a limited way after a three-week break.

The retailer said demand exceeded capacity by about 08:30am; it will now be closed until Wednesday.

The retailer shut up shop on its physical stores on March 23, a day before the UK went into lockdown, and turned its website into “browse only” three days later on March 26. However, it reopened online this morning after strengthening social distancing measures at its warehouses.

The plan is to only sell necessities such as children’s clothes and selected small home items, although even this has proved too much it seems.

Explaining the stampede, a Next spokesman said the firm had only asked people who wished to return to work to come in. About 3,000 of its 7,000 warehouse staff have volunteered, but all will need to go through a safety training course meaning most will not be back at work for several weeks.

“As those numbers rise, then the amount of volume that the warehouses can cope with will rise and therefore the website will open for longer each day,” the spokesman told the BBC.

Next, which makes more than half of its sales online, has warned it faces a “very significant drop in sales” as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, however, other retailers are in a much more perilous position. The likes of John Lewis, Waitrose, Matalan, and even B&Q are also banking on their online operations, but Primark, which has never had an e-commerce website, is facing a far greater hit.

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