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Wed 6th May 2020 - Update: Chancellor, M&S, Hammerson, Burger King
Chancellor to “wean” businesses off furlough scheme sector by sector: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to “wean” businesses and workers off the government’s furloughing scheme by cutting wage subsidies amid concerns that the nation has become “addicted”. According to The Times, the chancellor will announce plans next week to wind down the scheme from July as part of an attempt to get people back to work as the lockdown is eased. Ministers are considering plans to reduce subsidies offered to workers on a sector-by-sector basis as the lockdown is eased. The newspaper states that a three-phase approach has been drawn up in Whitehall. The first phase will involve small shops reopening alongside outdoor workplaces. The second will involve large shopping centres reopening, with more people encouraged to go into work, while pubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure centres will be among the last to open. They are likely to be able to continue to access the furloughing scheme for a prolonged period. Sunak earlier said this week that the scheme was not sustainable, with the government potentially spending as much on furloughing as it did on the NHS. “People are addicted to the scheme,” a senior government source said. “We’re not talking about a cliff-edge but we have to get people back to work.” Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said yesterday: “We’ve got to wean off it.”

M&S extends home delivery partnership with Deliveroo: M&S has extended its home delivery partnership with Deliveroo to a further 20 stores. More than 130 M&S products are available to order from the new locations on the Deliveroo app, including fresh fruit & vegetables, pasta, meat, prepared meals, sweets, biscuits, soft drinks, wine and toilet roll. Orders have a £4.99 delivery fee. M&S franchise stores at BP petrol stations began offering home deliveries via Deliveroo last month, with a more limited number of items available. The addition of the further 20 M&S stores in places including Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Plymouth – brings the total number offering home delivery to 142.

Hammerson pockets £21m deposit after retail park deal is terminated: Retail park owner Hammerson has pocketed a £21m deposit after a buyer of seven of its retail parks walked away from an unconditional deal. Hammerson stated this morning: “On 23 April 2020, Hammerson announced that Orion European Real Estate Fund V had notified the company that it did not intend to complete on the sale of a portfolio of seven retail parks, despite exchanging unconditional contracts on 20 February 2020. In accordance with the terms of the SPA, Hammerson served notice to complete on Orion specifying that completion must occur by no later than 6 May 2020. Following close of business on 5 May 2020, Orion notified Hammerson that it had resolved not to complete on the 6 May 2020. Hammerson will now terminate the SPA and access the £21 million deposit which has been held in escrow by its solicitors.”

Burger King tests table book app in Italy: Burger King is testing a table booking app for some of its restaurants in Italy once they fully reopen, which is expected at the start of next month. The fast food chain said it aims to make customers more comfortable eating inside restaurants after more than two months of lockdown in the country. The app will allow customers to order food for take-out or dine-in, pay and book a table. Burger King will begin testing its app at three of its Milan locations when they are permitted to fully reopen, and if the trial goes well, the app could be used in other countries, Andrea Valota, Burger King’s chief executive in Italy, told Reuters. Valota said: “We need to be good at showing people that it’s safe to come to a place which is perceived as being crowded, and give them options so they understand there is a safe way to come in.” A third of the tables at Burger King restaurants will be reserved during peak hours, typically from 12pm to 2pm and 7pm to 9pm. Social distancing will already more than halve the capacity of the restaurants. Valota told Reuters that the fast food chain hopes the app will keep revenues stable, as 70% of Burger King’s profit comes from patrons eating in. Burger King UK, the Alasdair Murdoch-led business, has said it hopes to open at least 350 out of its circa 550 restaurants by the end of June.

mypubshop platform sees almost 500 pubs register: The mypubshop initiative, which enables pubs to trade as food shops and transform into ‘click and collect’ havens for their local communities, has reported a “flying start” and gained further industry backing. Almost 500 pubs across the country have seen the opportunity offered by mypubshop and now registered on the platform, along with 6,500 customers. Launch partners included Brakes, Budweiser Brewing Group, Coca-Cola European Partners and pubcos Admiral Taverns, Greene King and St Austell. They have now been joined by new partners Costcutter, All About Food, Heineken and its Star Pubs & Bars pub business. The mypubshop, powered by StarStock, gives pubs nationwide the ability to host a web shop and offer their local community essential household food items and takeaway meals. Licensees are able to select items for the pub shop ‘inventory’ and provide an online payment service. Once orders are placed by customers, pubs then operate a collection (and now delivery) service from their venues. Sam Ulph, founder and chief executive of StarStock, said: “When we launched this initiative, the aim was for it to be much more than just an online pub service. In this period of extended lockdown, mypubshop offers pubs a way of staying connected with their local communities through providing an essential service, helping to reinforce their role as social hubs. We’re thrilled with the progress so far and with the support we’ve received from all our brand partners. We’re having some exciting conversations with a number of brands and suppliers who recognise the value that our e-commerce technology offers.” Each transaction made via mypubshop accrues a 2% fee to cover operational costs; however, the venture is being run as a non-profit, with any surplus revenue donated directly to the NHS. mypubshop is available nationwide and pubs can register at www.mypubshop.com.

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