The Liberty Book

LONDON — Harvey Nichols has joined the legion of luxury London retailers that have shut their doors as the coronavirus spreads across the U.K. Earlier on Thursday, Liberty said it would close at 5 p.m. on March 20 for “at least” three weeks.

The decisions follow the temporary closures of fellow retailers Selfridges and Fenwick earlier this week.

Manju Malhotra, chief operating officer of Harvey Nichols, said in light of the U.K. government guidance regarding COVID-19, “we have made the decision to temporarily close our stores and restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland,” at 6 p.m. on March 19.

All in-store events, appointments and services have also been canceled until further notice. She stressed that online shopping is still operating as normal, with deliveries continuing in the U.K. and internationally.

 

Harvey Nichols, The Fragrance Room

Harvey Nichols, The Fragrance Room  Ed Reeve

 

Earlier on Thursday, Liberty’s chief executive officer Adil M. Khan said that while the store would shut on Friday evening, the website would remain open, with free U.K. delivery.

“As a business we remain optimistic; we know this moment will pass, but we are neither complacent, nor naïve. We know we need to make our contribution to dissuade people from moving, and to protect our staff and our customers. Liberty would like to reassure you that health and safety have our complete attention,” he said.

The store closures come as the British government encourages residents to maintain social distancing, work from home and only travel when necessary. Many brands and retailers, including Ralph Lauren stores in the U.K., have shut temporarily, with Harrods the only major player to remain open.

As reported earlier this week, London’s big retailers had made a valiant effort to stay open, but with shorter opening hours. A combination of government advice for people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, and lifeless shop floors, have forced all but a few to shut down entirely.

As retailers attempt to do their part in halting the spread of the virus, the British Fashion Council has also been springing into action.

On Thursday, the organization told members it was working with officials from Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Health and Social Care. The BFC said it was looking to connect fashion brands and factories to the U.K. government departments to see if they could assist in “the manufacture of essential products including masks, and anything non-ventilator related.”

The BFC also outlined the government’s 330 billion pounds emergency aid package for businesses and individuals, which was announced earlier this week, and urged designers and brands to reach out to the BFC if they needed help.

Queen Elizabeth has weighed in, too, with words of support for her subjects, and recollections of difficult times in Britain’s 20th Century history.

“As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty. We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.

“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal. We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals – today and in the coming days, weeks and months.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to quash reports that London, the worst hit part of the U.K., would go into full lockdown due to the virus. Johnson stressed that healthy Londoners would not be confined to their homes, and that public transport would continue to operate, albeit with reduced services.

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