And now it seems that some big name brands are taking it one step further and closing their online shops in order to protect their employees, Retail Gazette reports.

River Island and TK Maxx have both stopped their online operations for the time being amid health concerns and trade union pressure regarding the working conditions in warehouses, including the lack of social distancing.

Next had plans to keep its warehouses open and ask staff members to travel to shops in order to pick up online orders, but following backlash from both employees and MPs, it reversed this decision.

It has now shut its online operations down temporarily and stopped taking orders, with the retailer saying in a statement that it has become clear that many are now increasingly feeling as though they should be at home at this time.

“Next has therefore taken the difficult decision to temporarily close its online, warehousing and distribution operations from this evening, Thursday 26th March 2020. Next will not be taking any more online orders after this time until further notice,” it went on to say.

River Island has also said that it is now preparing to shut its Milton Keynes-based distribution centre indefinitely from the end of the week, while TK Maxx posted on its website, apologising for any inconvenience but it needs to prioritise the wellbeing of its associates and their families.

Some fashion retailers do still seem to be operating, however, such as Asos and Boohoo, despite the fact that the government has now called for all non-essential workers to remain at home.

Net-a-Porter, meanwhile, has announced that it too will be temporarily closing its only distribution centre in the UK to help protect its staff during the outbreak. It is now closing the south London site after workers’ union GMB accused it of “putting fashion before lives” by keeping its online store open.

This is a difficult time for all but especially the retail sector which relies heavily on footfall to operate. With all non-essential bricks and mortar shops now shut, the internet is perhaps the only way some companies will be able to stay in business.

Finding ways to engage with customers is even more important now, so that when this does all eventually blow over, you still have a loyal following you can turn to. There are various ideas doing the rounds, with some brands now setting up crowdfunding campaigns, selling bar tabs for future use and live streaming events on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Thinking outside the box has never been more important!

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