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Gloucestershire Business News

Coronavirus LIVE Updates: The latest news from across Gloucestershire on Friday, November 6

The ongoing coronavirus situation is changing by the hour with announcements being made about businesses and services that are being forced to adapt and change.

Punchline is committed to trying to keep you up to date with all the news that matters to you and your business.

Our team will update this story throughout the day, to ensure the latest important developments can be found in one - clickbait free - place.

If you or your business has any news, views or advice to share with the Gloucestershire business community, get in touch with Punchline team at news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk.

Friday, November 6

Update #8024 - 12.53 Primark plans to reopen its UK stores for 24 hours a day

High street fashion giant Primark has announced plans to open stores 24 hours a day, seven days a week once coronavirus restrictions are lifted in December.

Owners of Primark, Associated British Foods Plc, said that the move to increase hours of operation is to ensure customers are able to socially distance in store through the festive period.

Chief executive George Weston told The Telegraph: "If we are able to trade in some stores up to 24 hours a day, then we can keep people more separate from each other more easily.

"We can keep the stores safer if everyone knows there are plenty trading hours and they do not have to rush on a Sunday into a six-hour period.

"And it will allow my business to sell a lot of its Christmas stock. I think it would be a great step forward for the high street to be allowed extend opening hours." 

Update #8023 - 12.25 Fully electric by 2030 for Bentley

Luxury car manufacturer Bentley has revealed plans to go fully electric by 2030.

It also added that it would be switching its model range to offer only plug-in hybrid or battery electric cars by 2026, alongside an aim of becoming completely carbon neutral across its manufacturing within a decade.

The business added that workers on internal combustion technology will be redeployed as it shifts to pure battery electric cars.

Adrian Hallmark, chairman and chief executive officer of Bentley Motors, said: "Within a decade, Bentley will transform from a 100 year old luxury car company to a new, sustainable, wholly ethical role model for luxury."

Update #8022 - 12.05 Mike Ashley drops out of Debenhams sale

British billionaire and owner of Sports Direct Mike Ashley has dropped out of bidding for Debenhams, reports The Times.

It has been said that Mr Ashley refused to match the £300 million price tag set by the department stores advisors.

Debenhams will now be forced with choosing between liquidating the business, selling off devisions to separate buyers or selling it back to the hedge funds that own its debts.

Marks & Spencer and Next are are thought to be interested in buying some of Debenhams' shops, while e-commerce retailer The Hut Group has made an offer to buy its website. 

Update #8021 - 11.19 Rush to shops and restaurants ahead of lockdown

The four days leading up to the tightened coronavirus restrictions in England sparked a mini rush to shops and restaurants.

Online reservations hub OpenTable said restaurant bookings were 11 per cent higher on Sunday - the day after Prime Minister announced the November lockdown - than the same day last year.

By Wednesday, bookings were 70 per cent higher on the final night before restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops were forced to close.

And retail data research firm Springboard said footfall was 11 per cent higher across the four days than the previous weeks.

Retail parks in England attracted more customers than in the same period last year for the first time since

Update #8020 - 11.16 Record house price growth starting to slow

House prices in the UK rose at the fastest annual rate in more than four years during October - but with signs that the surge since the first lockdown is slowing.

Halifax said year-on-year prices were up 7.5 per cent in October - the largest growth since June 2016 - compared with annual growth of 7.3 per cent in September.

But prices rose by just 0.3 per cent in October, the smallest growth in four months.

Halifax said the average house price in October was £250,547 - higher than the £227,826 figure from Nationwide - with larger homes seeing the biggest rises.

Detached property prices have risen six per cent since March with flats up two per cent.

Update #8019 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released yesterday show the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 48,120 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 378 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 24,141 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,123,197 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 4,828 as of Thursday afternoon - an increase of 80 on the day before.

These cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,270 cases (increase of 19)

Cheltenham - 994 cases (increase of 17)

Stroud - 792 cases (increase of 16)

Tewkesbury - 601 cases (increase of six)

Cotswolds - 664 cases (increase of 10)

Forest of Dean - 507 cases (increase of 12)

Thursday, November 5

Update #8018 - 12.27 Poundland rolls out more chilled and frozen 'shop-in-shops'

Poundland has announced plans to bring its chilled and frozen food offer to more stores in the run-up to Christmas.

Up to six stores a week are set to get the makeover - the installation of chiller and freezer cabinets - by early December in what has been internally called Project Diamond Ice.

The new chilled and frozen ranges have been developed in partnership with Fultons Foods, a leading frozen food specialist which last month became part of the Poundland family in an acquisition that started a £25 million investment in chilled and frozen over the next two years.

Managing director of Fultons, Poundland's new chilled and frozen food arm, Karen Rees, said: "Poundland and Fultons colleagues are working closely together to bring the new ranges to more stores by December as part of the Diamond Ice rollout and we'll continue working during the new lockdown."

The Fultons acquisition will accelerate the rollout and Poundland expects to bring its chilled and frozen offer to around 500 stores over the next two years. 

Update #8017 - 12.24 High streets bear brunt of reduced footfall

Customer numbers on the UK's high streets were down almost 40 per cent during October.

With tighter coronavirus restrictions in parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland closing many shops and hospitality venues for some of the month, footfall at all retail destinations was down 31.5 on the same month last year.

And the figures from market researcher Springboard revealed high streets took the biggest blow with numbers down 39.8 per cent year on year.

READ MORE 

Update #8016 - 12.06 Iceland sees 22 per cent jump in sales

Demand for frozen food and home delivery throughout the pandemic has aided the growth of supermarket Iceland through recent months.

Sales at Iceland increased by more than a fifth in the six months to September, reaching £1.7 billion. This figure is well ahead of its rivals, with Tesco reporting a 6.6 per cent rise, and Asda 3.5 per cent.

Operating profit for the business hit £13.4 million, far from the loss of £21 million in the same period last year.

Iceland chief executive Tarsem Dhaliwal said that its smaller Iceland stores on local high streets and expanding Food Warehouse presence at retail parks "proved in tune with changing customer priorities".

Update #8015 - 11.00 Sainsbury's plans to cut 3,500 jobs and close 420 Argos stores

British supermarket brand Sainsbury's has announced plans to cut 3,500 jobs across the UK and close 420 Argos sites as well as its meat, fish and deli counters.

Sainsbury's added that it also has plans to open 150 new Argos outlets within its existing supermarkets, but the 420 standalone stores would close by March 2024.

The grocer has not revealed which stores will close, but Gloucestershire's standalone Argos outlets at Gloucester St Oswalds and Cirencester could be at risk.

READ MORE 

Update #8014 - 10.14 Mobile speed camera locations in Gloucestershire this November

Throughout the pandemic lock-down and the subsequent return towards normal traffic flows the Camera Enforcement Team (CET) have been visiting as many of the sites as possible to act as a reminder to drivers about their behaviour and to enforce against those who have been driving at excessive speeds or committing other offences.

See the priority sites for November  

Update #8013 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released yesterday show the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 47,742 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 492 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 25,177 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,099,059 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 4,748 as of Wednesday afternoon - an increase of 128 on the day before.

These cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,251 cases (increase of 30)

Cheltenham - 977 cases (increase of 25)

Stroud - 776 cases (increase of 19)

Tewkesbury - 595 cases (increase of 17)

Cotswolds - 654 cases (increase of 19)

Forest of Dean - 495 cases (increase of 18) 

Wednesday, November 4

Update #8012 - 15.07 Chancellor to provide update on support package

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will make a statement on the Government's latest coronavirus support package tomorrow as England enters a month of tighter restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the statement as he opened a debate on the November lockdown measures.

He said: "The Chancellor will be making a general statement about all the support, all the provisions that we're making for this latest phase to tackle the autumn surge of coronavirus tomorrow."

Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper, a former Conservative chief whip, told Mr Johnson "we have acted too soon" ahead of MPs voting 516-38 in favour of the lockdown restrictions.

The Bank of England has brought forward its November policy decision statement from noon to 7am tomorrow to avoid a clash with the Chancellor.

Update #8011 - 15.04 Clarks strides into £100m rescue deal

Troubled shoe retailer Clarks has been rescued in a £100million deal.

The 195-year-old form has been bought out of a company voluntary agreement by Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital.

Clarks said no jobs would be lost and its 320 shops would remain open with 60 moved to no rent.

Update #8010 - 13.12 John Lewis to cut 1,500 head office jobs

Department store John Lewis has revealed proposals to cut 1,500 head office jobs as part of a £300 million cost saving.

The business, which employs 78,000 people and has a store in Cheltenham, said the changes would effect strategy, commercial development and operations teams.

Chairman Sharon White said: "Our partnership plan sets a course to create a thriving and sustainable business for the future. To achieve this we must be agile and able to adapt quickly to the changing needs of our customers.

"Losing partners is incredibly hard as an employee-owned business. Wherever possible, we will seek to find new roles in the partnership and we'll provide the best support and retraining opportunities for partners who leave us." 

Update #1809 - 12.49 More than 1,000 jobs to go at Lloyds

High street bank and mortgage lender Lloyds Banking Group has announced plans to cut 1,070 as part of a plan to restructure back office operations.

The bank, which has a base in Barnwood, said the changes would affect its transformation and retail teams and it would also see 340 new roles created within the group.

A spokesperson said: "These changes reflect our ongoing plans to continue to meet our customers' changing needs and make parts of our business simpler.

"The majority of colleagues briefed today will not leave until January at the earliest."

Update #1808 - 12.30 First ever loss for M&S

Marks & Spencer has suffered its first loss in its 94 year history as a publicly-listed company.

In the six months to 26th September, the retailer which has stores in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cirencester, made a loss of £87.6m, compared with profits of £158.8m in the same period last year, as reported by the BBC.

But the firm's chief executive said its performance had actually been "much more robust than at first seemed possible".

SEE MORE 

Update #1807 - 12.25 Independent retailers more resilient than national chains during the pandemic

Independent shops have proved much more resilient than national chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research out today.

Independent retailers suffered a net decline of 1,833 stores in the first half of 2020, less than a third of the 6,001 chain stores lost, according to research by the Local Data Company (LDC) and accountancy firm PwC.

SEE MORE 

Update #1806 - 12.17 Increased floor suspension helps lift mood for self-employed

Small businesses have welcomed the further suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for self-employed Universal Credit claimants.

The suspension, which was introduced in March and was due to finish in April, will now end in April.

It means self-employed people who have fluctuating earnings will continue to receive financial support from Universal Credit based on their current income, providing additional protection for those hit by the affects of Covid 19.

READ MORE 

Update #1805 - 12.09 Councils waiting for lockdown grant details

Councils across Gloucestershire are waiting for further details about updated business grants as England prepares for tighter coronavirus restrictions.

The latest restrictions come into force from midnight with councils responsible for assessing eligibility for grants and handling applications.

Councillor Mike Evemy, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance at Cotswold District Council, said: "We appreciate the concerns of businesses during this unprecedented period and the urgency to deliver these payments.

"Rest assured, once we have the detailed guidance from the Government, we will be doing everything we can to process these grants quickly."

Tewkesbury Borough Council said it was waiting for details of grants to become available.

Update #1804 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released yesterday show the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 47,250 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 397 on the previous day's figures.

Across the UK, 20,018 people have tested positive for the virus over the last 24 hours and 1,073,882 since the outbreak began.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 4,620 as of Tuesday afternoon - an increase of 112 on the day before.

These cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,221 cases (increase of 33)

Cheltenham - 952 cases (increase of 16)

Stroud - 757 cases (increase of 25)

Tewkesbury - 578 cases (increase of 16)

Cotswolds - 635 cases (increase of 14)

Forest of Dean - 477 cases (increase of eight)

Tuesday, November 3

Update #1803 - 15.15 Shops keep doors open as long as possible

Several major retailers are extending their opening hours to deal with any late rush before coronavirus restrictions force non-essential retailers in England to close their doors for a month on Thursday.

Some Currys PC World and The Entertainer branches are opening until 8pm or even 10pm after seeing strong sales following the announcement of the latest measures by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.

Currys PC World chief operating officer Mark Allsop said: "While we expect footfall to increase between now and Thursday, our extended opening hours will help ease the busy periods in store."

Update #1802 - 15.13 Staying at home helps IKEA profits

The owners of IKEA saw pre-tax profits grow by 13 per cent over the past 12 months to August as people turned to home improvements during lockdown.

Sales also rose in September and October after Inter IKEA Group's yearly revenue of £1.8billion when profit grew by five per cent.

Chief financial officer Martin van Dam said he expected sales to drop during the latest round of closures but not as sharply as after the initial lockdown.

Update #1802 - 12.42 Covid concerns common in the workplace

More than one third of workers in the UK are concerned about catching coronavirus while working according to a new study.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said poorer and younger workers are least likely to raise their fears with bosses.

Research director Lindsay Judge said: More than one-in-three workers are worried about catching coronavirus on the job, despite the extensive steps employers have taken to make workplaces Covid-secure.

"Given many workers' limited ability to get employers to address Covid concerns, the UK needs a strong enforcement regime to ensure that workplaces are as safe as can be."

Update #1801 - 12.40 Lockdown flicks switch on ecommerce businesses

Online businesses were created at a record rate during the first months of coronavirus restrictions.

Research by the Royal Mail revealed almost 16,000 ecommerce businesses were created between March and July - among 315,000 incorporated in the UK during lockdown.

That figure was seven per cent up on the same period last year while April to June saw 176,000 start-ups, the highest for any second quarter.

Royal Mail chief commercial officer Nick Landon said: "It is very promising to see this level of new business creation.

"The narrative for businesses during and post lockdown is not one purely of survival, but also of resilience, resurgence, and growth."

Update #1800 - 11.47 Profits at Crest Nicholson ahead of expectations

National housebuilder Crest Nicholson has announced it will restart paying dividends to investors after the business saw a large rise in sales after the first lockdown.

The firm said it expects pre-tax profits for the year to October to be well ahead of expectations and at the upper end of the £35-45 million estimate.

Crest Nicholson recorded a knock to sales in the first half of the year caused by the national lockdown, but said that as restrictions eased in May and a stamp duty holiday introduced, sales have increased.

It revealed that forward sales as at October 31 were 2,289 units and £480.5 million Gross Development Value, up from 2,013 units and £378 million GDV in 2019.

A statement released alongside its financial results read: "The release of pent-up demand, whether due to customers putting off moving because of Brexit uncertainty or subsequent COVID-19 disruption, and the benefits of the Stamp Duty holiday, have supported near-term confidence levels in the housing market."

Update #1799 - 11.28 Sainsbury's look at future of bank

Sainsbury's is believed to be exploring the sale of its baking according ahead of publishing its half-yearly results next week.

According to Sky News, chief executive Simon Roberts has asked corporate broker UBS to look at its options for the future of Sainsbury's Bank.

The bank, which has more than two million customers, was launched in 1997 and Sainsbury's took full control in 2013 by paying £260million to buy a 50 per cent holding from Lloyds.

A deal to sell the bank's £1.9billion mortgage book to Nationwide was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesco sold its £3.8billion mortgage book to Lloyds last year.

Update #1798 - 11.26 Plenty of Andrex to go round insist makers

Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Andrex toilet rolls, said it is ready for any panic buying induced by the November coronavirus restrictions.

The company said it had prepared for stockpiling and had 100 million rolls in its UK warehouses.

During the first phase of lockdown in March, supermarket orders for Andrex doubled due to the increased demand.

Update #1797 - 11.05 Coronavirus restrictions allow Cheltenham to remember

Cheltenham will hold its annual Remembrance Sunday and Armistice services in line with the Government's coronavirus restrictions, but the service planned for Stroud has been called off.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed parades and services could continue outdoors, although Cheltenham's traditional parade of serving personnel and cadets will not take place.

A short service will be held at the War Memorial on the Promenade at 10.55am on Sunday, hosted by Mayor of Cheltenham Councillor Roger Whyborn and Rev Luke Goodway, followed by two-minute's silence at 11am.

READ MORE 

Update #1796 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 4,508 as of Monday afternoon - an increase of 96 on the day before.

These cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,188 cases (increase of 31)

Cheltenham - 936 cases (increase of 11)

Stroud - 732 cases (increase of 25)

Tewkesbury - 562 cases (increase of five)

Cotswolds - 621 cases (increase of 18)

Forest of Dean - 469 cases (increase of six)

Monday, November 2

Update #1795 - 15.55 Increased lockdown support for the self-employed

Support for the self-employed will double as part of the tightening of coronavirus restrictions.

Outlining the new restrictions in Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the furlough scheme will continued during November and support for the self-employed will rise from 40 per cent to 80 per cent of trading profits.

He also said the deadline for Covid-loan schemes will be extended to the end of next month.

The Prime Minister denied the Government had been slow to act in introducing stricter measures.

He said: "No one wants to impose measures unless absolutely essential. When the date changes course, we must change course too."

Update #1794 - 15.36 Gloucester BID calls for unified approach to help city

The chairman of the Gloucester Business Improvement District has called on local organisations and the city council to work together to help the post-Covid recovery.

And he said the business organisation needs to move on from the collapse of Marketing Gloucester.

Councillor Richard Cook, leader of Gloucester City Council, last month called for the city's organisation to be reinvented.

But chairman Kieron Bates, who runs The Fountain Inn in Westgate Street, believes the organisations need to collaborate.

He said: "The BID isn't re-inventing anything. We continue to support our city council and to champion local business and we are now forging ahead on all fronts as well as strengthening our staff team, recruiting a new manager and inviting new members to join the BID director's board."

READ MORE 

Update #1793 - 15.32 Protection officers take Covid battle to the streets

Eight Covid Community Protection Officers are hitting the streets of Gloucestershire from today to help the public and businesses combat the spread of the virus.

The officers from Gloucester's Community Protection scheme are adding the Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Stroud areas to their normal city beat with distinctive red vests.

The will be armed with face coverings and hand gel to give away, offer tips on social distancing and work with retailers to help them be Covid secure.

A Gloucestershire County Council spokesperson said: "To put these ambassadorial style roles in place, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Tewkesbury councils, and the county council have pooled some of their Covid funding from Government."

READ MORE 

Update #1792 - 15.28 Shopping numbers rise ahead of lockdown

Shoppers at British retail outlets went up 6.2 per cent last week, helped by the half term break, but the figures comes with a warning for the coming weeks.

Market researcher Springboard revealed high street footfall to Saturday was up 5.2 per cent on the previous week, up 3.5 per cent in retail parks and 11 per cent at shopping centres.

But the total figure was down 32.5 per cent on the same week a year ago with the warning of large falls as tighter coronavirus restrictions are introduced from Thursday.

Springboard director Diane Wehrle said: "The school half-term delivered a boost despite a significant decrease in Wales (down 53.7 per cent) as a consequence of the firebreak.

"Over the next month the results will look very different with an annual decline that could reach 80 per cent."

Update #1791 - 12.22 Huge lockdown losses for Primark

The owner of value fashion retailer, Primark, estimates it will lose £375 million in sales from temporary Covid-19 closures in all of its major markets.

As of today (2nd November), all Primark stores in Ireland, France, Belgium, Wales, Catalonia in Spain and Slovenia are temporarily closed, representing 19 per cent of its total retail selling space, as reported by Reuters.

When the government's closure of non-essential shops in England for four weeks goes ahead from Thursday (5th November), 57 per cent of the retailer's total selling space will be out of action.

Primark, which has stores in Cheltenham and Gloucester, had been trading strongly since its stores reopened in June, achieving record market share in August and early September.

SEE MORE  

Update #1790 - 11.25 Mortgage holidays extended by up to six months

Mortgage payment holidays are being extended for homeowners hit by the pandemic.

The scheme had been due to come to an end last Saturday (31st October).

Borrowers who have not yet had a mortgage holiday can request one for up to six months. 

Anyone who has already deferred their payments can extend their mortgage holiday until they hit the six month limit.

Interest will still accrue on what homeowners owe during this time. 

Update #1789 - 10.30 Fivefold increase for business borrowing

Businesses borrowing from banks in 2020 will increase more than fivefold compared to last year, according to analysis from the EY Item Club.

The economic forecaster found that net borrowing from banks rose to £43.2bn between January and August this year, from £8.8bn for 2019, as reported by the BBC.

Businesses have been increasing their borrowing to survive the pandemic, as many have seen sales plunge.

Net lending fell slightly over the summer, as stronger businesses paid back money borrowed as a precaution. But the majority of firm are unlikely to start repaying their debt and reducing their borrowing until 2022.

Update #1788 - 10.15 Credit card freeze extended ahead of new lockdown

Payment holidays on personal loans, credit cards, car finance and pawned goods have been extended, ahead of the new lockdown to begin on Thursday (5th November).

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said customers could now request a deferred payment for up to six months. Short term credit, such as payday loans, can be deferred for a month.

The FCA stressed that borrower should only take up this support if they need it, and that those who can afford to make repayments should continue to do so.

Update #1787 - 08.30 Latest coronavirus figures for the UK and Gloucestershire

The latest data for coronavirus cases and deaths of patients with COVID-19 were released yesterday by the Government's department of health and social care and NHS England.

Updated figures released yesterday show the UK death toll of people with coronavirus rose to 46,717 - which includes those in care homes, hospitals and in the community.

This is an increase of 162 on the previous day's figures.

Latest Public Health England figures show that the total number of cases within the county sits at 4,412 as of Sunday afternoon.

These cases are split across the following regions:

Gloucester - 1,157 cases

Cheltenham - 925 cases

Stroud - 707 cases

Tewkesbury - 557 cases

Cotswolds - 603 cases

Forest of Dean - 463 cases

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