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CHAMBER NEWS Boots could be tip of the iceberg


Boots’ decision to put 4,000 staff at risk of redundancy illustrates the “scale of the challenge facing the UK economy”, believes Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles. He commented after the pharmacy giant announced


it could cut seven per cent of its workforce – including a significant headcount reduction at its Nottingham headquarters – and close 48 Boots Opticians stores. It said the impact of Covid-19 on the business had


been stark, including an 85% reduction in footfall to its Boots stores in April and sales in the latest quarter down by between £700m and £750m. Scott said: “This is going to be a very difficult time


for everyone who is affected by the job losses and our thoughts are with these people. “What this highlights very starkly is the scale of the challenge facing the UK economy as a whole, and retail in particular. That’s why it’s important the Government brings through measures that support a safe reopening of the economy – giving consumers confidence to spend, and reassure businesses there is a future for them to be investing in their staff and services.”


The announcement on 9 July came on the same day


John Lewis announced it would close eight stores, with 1,300 job losses anticipated. Almost 9,000 redundancies were announced by high


street retail chains across the country the previous week, including Topshop owner Arcadia Group, Poundstretcher and Harrods.


Chamber members learn from online giant Amazon


Members of East Midlands Chamber were among the first to be given a tour of a new Amazon logistics hub in the region. The online retail giant opened


the doors of its fulfilment centre at East Midlands Gateway, the major logistics park built next to East Midlands Airport. Amazon, which is a member of


Scott Knowles has broadly welcomed the ‘mini budget’


industries,” he added. “This transition to a greener economy, if implemented successfully, could signpost an exciting new era for our region. “Meanwhile, policies to


temporarily lower the VAT rate for businesses in food, accommodation and visitor attractions – as well as the innovative ‘eat out to help out’ scheme – should help bring back consumer confidence. However, we will have to wait and see just how comfortable people are to both return to these types of venues and put their hands in their pockets again. “These are extraordinary times


and they require extraordinary measures. There’s certainly some policies announced today that businesses, consumers and employees will welcome, but it doesn’t mean ‘job done’. We really can’t underestimate the scale of the challenge we’re facing.”


the Chamber, has continued to operate throughout the pandemic, with a sharp rise in sales as more people turned to online shopping during the nationwide lockdown. During the tours, business


owners were shown the measures introduced by the firm to allow employees continue working safely. Among those to join the tours


was Ian Mincher, UK group health and safety manager at AGA Rangemaster. He said: “Amazon presented a


facility where the new working norm has been well received and accepted with minimal fuss and drama. This is testament to their engagement strategy and collaborative approach to change.” Also on one of the tours was


Paul Callum, director of Resilient World Solutions. He said: “Amazon has placed the


well-being of their team at the centre of their Covid-19 policy. “What I saw was clear


leadership, flexible working solutions, reviews of the policy at regular intervals and, in light of new and developing information, a structured, two-way communications strategy – a people-first approach.”


Chamber members were given a tour of the new Amazon logistics hub


Richard Thompson, site leader at


Amazon’s Castle Donington centre, said: “We were delighted to be able to show members of East Midlands Chamber first-hand how we have implemented a range of measures to keep our people safe while continuing to serve our customers. “We’re proud to be part of the


East Midlands community and want to do all we can to help fellow chamber members return to work safely and effectively.” Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Businesses are


taking a risk-based approach to returning to work to maximise safety in close consultation with their employees. “However, for many this will be a


completely new way of working going forward. Businesses of every size and sector across the East Midlands have appreciated the chance to see the practical reality of working within existing Government guidelines first-hand at Amazon and apply this learning to their own operations as they begin to reopen and rebuild.”


business network August/September 2020 23


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