LONDON — Well, that didn’t last long.
Less than 24 hours after confirming that it would continue trading, but with shorter opening times, London retailers Selfridges and Fenwick are temporarily shutting all of their U.K. stores due to coronavirus.
Selfridges said on Twitter that it would shut as of 7 p.m. U.K. time on March 18. It will close four physical stores, in London, Manchester, Trafford and Birmingham, although the web site will continue trading.
“It is with a heavy heart we have made the decision to temporarily close our four physical stores in London from 7 p.m. tomorrow evening,” the store said.
“The health, safety and wellbeing of our customers and team members is our utmost priority. We must do the right thing by the communities in which we live and work to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” it added.
The company confirmed that the e-commerce site and social channels would remain up and running.
In a further statement, Selfridges added: “We want to thank our customers and teams for their support during what has been, and continues to be, a very uncertain time for all of us. We look forward to welcoming our customers and teams back to our stores as soon as we can.”
The store added that employees will continue to be paid their contracted hours throughout the closure.
As reported on Tuesday, Selfridges was planning to operate with reduced hours, and had planned to keep normal hours on Sunday.
“Despite everything going on around us, we are doing our best to continue to deliver” experiences and to connect with our customers, said Meave Wall, stores director at Selfridges.
Later on Wednesday, the family-owned department store chain Fenwick, which has a flagship on Bond Street, said it was shutting its entire U.K. store network temporarily. Stores will close as of 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.
The 140-year-old retailer said “it goes against everything in our nature” to shut the stores, but said it was making the move to protect “customers, colleagues and communities” and to dampen the spread of the virus.
Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Liberty remain open, but press reports of an imminent lockdown in London, the worst-hit area of the U.K. by far, could halt all activity.