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Primark warns of sales hit after coronavirus store closures

Primark has closed 72 stores in Italy, France, Spain, and Austria after government action to tackle the outbreak. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian The UK retailers Primark and Kingfisher have warned the coronavirus pandemic will hit sales after store closures in Europe, while the betting company Flutter issued a profit warning and warned of “unprecedented” times.…

Primark has closed 72 stores in Italy, France, Spain, and Austria after government action to tackle the outbreak.






Primark has closed 72 stores in Italy, France, Spain, and Austria after government action to tackle the outbreak.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

The UK retailers Primark and Kingfisher have warned the coronavirus pandemic will hit sales after store closures in Europe, while the betting company Flutter issued a profit warning and warned of “unprecedented” times.

The owner of the fashion chain Primark, Associated British Foods, said 72 stores accounting for 20% of selling space are now closed in Italy, France, Spain, and Austria, after action taken by governments to tackle the outbreak.

Stores in those countries generate 30% of Primark’s sales and the firm had expected sales of £190m over the next three to four weeks. In the UK – where its 189 stores remain open – Primark has suffered like-for-like sales declines over the last two weeks and “these have accelerated over the past few days as a result of reduced footfall”, the retailer said. Shares in ABF fell 13% to £15.94.

Kingfisher, the DIY retail group which owns B&Q, also warned of a sales hit, after it was forced to close all of its 221 Castorama and Brico Dépôt stores in France until 14 April, and shut all 28 Brico Dépôt stores in Spain until 29 March. It said it would try to mitigate the impact by offering home delivery and click and collect services. Kingfisher’s remaining 1,100 shops across the UK, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Portugal and Russia remain open.

Kingfisher shares were down 20% at 109p.

Italy was the first European country to go into a nationwide lockdown last week, with only pharmacies, supermarkets and news kiosks allowed to stay open. Over the weekend, the French and Austrian governments decided to close all non-essential places used by the public, while Spain declared a two-week state of emergency.

Laura Ashley also warned that future trading could be hit due to the pandemic, as it told the City that it needed further funding to shore up its finances. The loss-making clothing and home furnishing chain said its Asian shareholders were considering providing a further £10m to support its turnaround plan, while another lender could provide up to £15m. But if it failed to secure the extra funds by the end of the month, it would have to “consider all appropriate options”.

The gambling firm Flutter, which owns Paddy Power and Betfair, issued a profit warning after sports events around the world were cancelled or postponed.

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If restrictions remained in place until the end of August, including a full suspension of Australian sports and the cancellation of the Euro 2020 football tournament, annual profits would come in £90m-110m lower than expected, the company said. Flutter would lose an additional £30m of profits every month if horse racing fixtures in the UK, Ireland and Australia were also cancelled and its UK and Irish betting shops had to close.

Peter Jackson, the Flutter chief executive, said: “The challenge currently facing our business and the industry more widely is unprecedented in modern times.”

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