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Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza owner to cut 5,000 UK jobs | Business



The coronavirus lockdown has prompted some of the UK’s most prominent companies to announce large-scale job losses. The aviation, automotive and retail sectors have been among the worst hit, as businesses adjust to dramatically reduced revenue projections.

While the government’s job retention scheme has so far protected millions of jobs, fears are mounting that unemployment will rise as the scheme begins to be phased out from August.

Since lockdown began on 23 March, some of the UK’s largest companies have announced plans to cut a total of 60,000 jobs globally, many of which will fall in the UK.

Rolls-Royce – 9,000 jobs
The jet-engine manufacturer has confirmed that 3,000 job cuts, of a planned 9,000 worldwide, will be made in the UK. In May Rolls-Royce said it would make the first round of redundancies through a voluntary programme, with about 1,500 posts being lost at its headquarters in Derby, as well as 700 redundancies in Inchinnan, near Glasgow, another 200 at its Barnoldswick site in Lancashire, and 175 in Solihull, Warwickshire.

BP- 10,000 jobs
The oil company said in June it plans to make 10,000 people redundant worldwide, including an estimated 2,000 in the UK, by the end of the year. The BP chief executive, Bernard Looney, said that the majority of people affected would be those in office-based jobs, including at the most senior levels. BP said it would reduce the number of group leaders by a third, and protect the “frontline” of the company, in its operations.

Centrica- 5,000 jobs
The owner of British Gas announced in June that it intends to cut 5,000 jobs, mostly senior roles, and remove three layers of management, in a bid to simplify the structure of its business. The energy firm has a total workforce of 27,000, of whom 20,000 are in the UK.

Bentley- 1,000 jobs
The luxury carmaker intends to shrink its workforce by almost a quarter, slashing 1,000 roles through a voluntary redundancy scheme. The majority of Bentley’s 4,200 workers are based in Crewe in Cheshire.

Aston Martin Lagonda – 500 jobs
The Warwickshire-based luxury car manufacturer has announced 500 redundancies.

British Airways – 12,000 jobs
The UK flag carrier is holding consultations to make up to 12,000 of its staff redundant, a reduction of one in four jobs at the airline. BA intends to cut roles among its cabin crew, pilots and ground staff, while significantly reducing its operations at Gatwick airport.

Virgin Atlantic – 3,000-plus jobs
Richard Branson’s airline is to cut more than 3,000 jobs, more than a third of its workforce, and will shut its operations at Gatwick.

EasyJet – 4,500 jobs
The airline has announced plans to cut 4,500 employees, or 30% of its workforce.

Ryanair – 3,000 jobs
The Irish airline intends to slash 3,000 roles and reduce staff pay by up to a fifth.

Aer Lingus – 900 jobs
The Irish airline, part of International Airlines Group (IAG) plans to cut 900 jobs.

P&O Ferries – 1,100 jobs
The shipping firm intends to cut more than a quarter of its workforce, a loss of 1,100 jobs. The company, which operates passenger ferries between Dover and Calais, and across the Irish Sea, as well as Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, will initially offer employees voluntary redundancy.

JCB – 950 jobs
Digger maker JCB said in May up to 950 jobs are at risk after demand for its machines halved due to the coronavirus shutdown.

Ovo Energy – 2,600 jobs
Britain’s second biggest energy supplier announced in May it planned to cut 2,600 jobs and close offices after the lockdown saw more of its customer service move online.

Johnson Matthey – 2,500 jobs
The chemicals company said in June it is planning to make 2,500 redundancies worldwide over the next three years. The move will affect 17% of the workforce at the firm, which is a major supplier of material for catalytic converters.

Bombardier – 600 jobs
The Canadian plane maker will cut 600 jobs in Northern Ireland, as part of 2,500 redundancies announced in June.

The Restaurant Group – 1,500 jobs
The owner of Tex-Mex dining chain Chiquito, and other brands including Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s, said in March that most branches of Chiquito and all 11 of its Food & Fuel pubs would not reopen after the lockdown, leading to the loss of 1,500 jobs.

Monsoon Accessorize – 345 jobs
The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in June, in a deal which saw 35 stores close permanently and led to the loss of 545 jobs.

Clarks – 900 jobs
Clarks plans to cut 900 office jobs worldwide as part of a wider turnaround strategy

Oasis and Warehouse – 1,800 jobs
The fashion brands were bought out of administration by restructuring firm Hilco in April, in a deal which led to the permanently closure of all of their stores and the loss of more than 1,800 jobs.

Debenhams – 4,000 jobs
At least 4,000 jobs will be lost at Debenhams as a result of restructuring, following its collapse into administration in April, for the second time in a year.

Mulberry – 470 jobs
The luxury fashion and accessories brand said in June it is to cut 25% of its global workforce and has started a consultation with the 470 staff at risk.

Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100 jobs
The car firm is to cut 1,100 contract workers at manufacturing plants the UK, potentially affecting factories at Halewood on Merseyside and Solihull and Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands.

Travis Perkins – 2,500 jobs
The builders’ merchant is cutting 2,500 jobs in the UK, accounting for almost a 10th of its 30,000-strong workforce. The company, which is behind DIY retailer Wickes and Toolstation, said the job losses will affect staff in areas including distribution, administrative roles and sales. The move will also affect staff across 165 stores that are now earmarked for closure.

Swissport – 4,500 jobs
Swissport, which handles services such as passenger baggage and cargo for airlines has began a consultation process that is expected to result in 4,556 workers being made redundant, more than half of its 8,500 UK workforce.

Royal Mail – 2,000 jobs
Royal Mail has announced a cost-cutting plan that will involve slashing about 2,000 jobs. One in five of its near-10,000 management roles will go by March 2021, in areas including IT, finance, marketing and sales. The company’s 90,000 postal workers would not be affected by the cuts.

SSP Group – 5,000 jobs
The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza is to axe 5,000 jobs, which represents about half of its workforce. The cuts will have an impact on staff at its head office and across its UK operations. It follows a dramatic fall in domestic and international travel, which has hit the company’s sites based at railway stations and airports.

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Queen’s University team launches new platform to support Canadian small businesses – Kingston News




A new marketplace-style platform allows consumers to purchase gift certificates, pre-purchase products, and pre-book services to be redeemed at any future time. Designed in Kingston by a team at Queen’s University, SupportSME is a free platform designed to help support small and medium businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Participating business include restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons and spas, fitness centers, dental offices, physiotherapy and massage clinics, arts & entertainment venues and shops.

“Small businesses are facing extraordinary challenges right now, and the need for creative solutions and supports has never been greater. That’s why I’m thrilled to see the launch of, a national platform proudly designed here in Kingston,” says Mayor Paterson. “SupportSME provides a simple and effective way for residents to support their favourite local businesses, and offers much need help to small business owners and employees during this critical time.”

Through, small businesses have a way for loyal customers to access them, even if they are not yet able to safely open their doors. The platform creators hope these local businesses can perhaps stay afloat and receive support from their regular customers, and residents of Kingston, until they can welcome customers back to their brick and mortar locations.

“It was great news to hear that a team from the Smith School of business was building a platform to help small businesses reach a larger audience for gift certificate sales,” said Tim Pater, owner and operator of the Black Dog Hospitality Group. “I was approached by the developers and ended up onboarding all four of our restaurants. The process was quick and user friendly, it would be easy for any business to participate!”

The SupportSME platform operates on a nonprofit basis. It’s simple for businesses to get set up and completely free to use. Business owners can create an account at, and confirm through Stripe to enable them to issue the certificates to customers.

SupportSME is now a featured local program supporting small businesses via #SmallBusinessEveryDay initiative by The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. Read more about the #SmallBusinessEveryDay initiative on their website:

Customers can browse available certificates and services on their website or on the SupportSME app, available for iOS and android.

Jessica is a freelance writer with a startup content writing business. She loves raising her family here in Kingston and tries to attend the amazing events around town. You can find more of her writing on her blog A Modern Mom’s Life, and see what she gets up to with her family on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

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Business Leaders Urge Trump to Leave DACA Alone After Court Ruling




A group of prominent business leaders urged President Trump on Saturday to leave in place a program affecting roughly 800,000 young immigrants who are shielded from deportation, saying it would disrupt the economy and impact the battle against the coronavirus.

The letter, from members of the Coalition for the American Dream, an alliance of business and industry leaders, comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month that the Trump administration improperly wound down the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a finding that was made on procedural grounds. The signers of the letter included executives with Amazon, General Motors, Hilton Worldwide, Target, Apple, Google and Facebook, as well as groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and almost every sector of the manufacturing industry.

“As large American employers and employer organizations, we strongly urge you to leave the DACA program in place,” members of the group wrote about the program, which applies to people who were brought to the United States as children. “DACA recipients have been critical members of our work force, industries, and communities for years now, and they have abided by the laws and regulations of our country in order to maintain their DACA status.”

The letter went on to say that “their work and commitment to our companies, their families and communities are critical to our nation’s strength, especially since there are tens of thousands of DACA recipients working as front line doctors and nurses and in other critical industries fighting Covid-19.”

“This is no time to disrupt the economic recovery of our companies and communities, nor time to jeopardize the health and safety of these vulnerable individuals,” the letter said, noting that polls have consistently shown voters don’t want to see DACA recipients deported. “We ask that you leave DACA in place and refrain from taking any additional administrative actions that would negatively impact the DACA program.”

Mr. Trump has suggested he would try again to rescind the program, which he has alternately praised and criticized.

On Friday, in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo, Mr. Trump gave a confusing statement about his plans to write an immigration-related executive order in about four weeks.

“DACA is going to be just fine,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he was going to issue a “big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it.”

Then he immediately said, “But, we put it in, and we’ll probably going to then be taking it out.” At another point, he said that it would be a “very big bill” that would call for merit-based immigration and include a DACA provision. He then said there would be a “road to citizenship” in the executive order — which he repeatedly confused with a piece of legislation. Presidents cannot create a pathway to citizenship without congressional action.

Almost immediately after Mr. Trump’s interview, a White House spokesman issued a statement that was quite different from what the president said. The statement said that Mr. Trump was working on an executive order to “establish a merit-based immigration system to further protect U.S. workers,” something that the White House has been planning for weeks. The statement made clear it would not relate to DACA or a “road to citizenship.”

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‘My parents helped me pack lube’: from sex toys to bidets, the lockdown businesses that boomed | Business




For most businesses, the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic were an economic horror story measured in job losses and plummeting sales graphs. But this was not the case for everyone. As lockdown measures were imposed around the globe, certain companies struggled to cope with sudden demand from a confined populace with new, highly specific needs.

So what was it like to be the focus of such frenzied consumer interest? How did they cope with self-isolating staff and faltering supply chains? And what are their hopes now the world is tentatively reopening? Here, five different companies reflect on their accidental boom.

‘We’ve donated product to nurses’

Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound, in New York

At the beginning of Covid-19, on 31 March, someone tweeted: “All my strongest soldiers on life support” with a video of all these vibrators charging. She tagged us, and it went viral; I think a million people watched it. Suddenly we had all this traffic. The second surge happened on 15 April, which, it so happens, was the day the US federal government gave a lot of people a cheque to get through the crisis. People had this discretionary income that they were spending on our products.

From then we were at a new normal: sales were up by 150% compared with this time last year. This is usually our slowest time of year, because people are travelling and spending on vacations, but every day we’d wake up and say, “Are the numbers going to go down? Is this the day it ends?” It’s like being on a rollercoaster, thinking, it’s got to stop somewhere. And it honestly hasn’t.

We have a stimulating lubricant that has sold really well – 8,500 units in three months – which is probably down to couples trying to make sex a little more interesting. I moved back to the Midwest to stay with my parents for a while, and my mom, dad and boyfriend had to help me get about 2,000 lubricants into packaging. Vibrators are our bestsellers – particularly Bender, a £55 dual stimulation product; pretty soon we ran out of inventory. We were scrambling to set up remote working systems and paying an exorbitant amount to ship product from China, because so many of the commercial flights we use were grounded.

Morale has been tough. We’re a small startup and it has been hard to hear people on the team say that they miss being in the office and seeing other people. I’ve encouraged staff to take a mental health day when they need it. For me, there was one day when I was working from home, I had no groceries, an investor call in 10 minutes and a new, five-month-old puppy. I ran downstairs to grab some delivered food, the puppy freaked out because he didn’t know where I was, and when I came back up he had sprayed diarrhoea everywhere. I burst into tears.

We made more than $400,000 in April which, traditionally, is our slowest month; there was a wholesale order for $70,000 in a single day. It’s weird to have your business doing well during such a sombre time. But I don’t feel guilty; I feel proud. We’ve donated product to nurses. It’s a remarkable thing, that in such a horrific time people are still giving themselves permission to experience pleasure. I think [sex toy] sales will stay at this level until there is a vaccine. It’s going to take a while before normal human behaviour – and the option to have sex with someone you don’t know that well – returns. Humans are sexual by nature. That’s not going to change.

Miki Agrawal and Jason Ojalvo of Tushy, with one of their bidet attachments (just seen in blue)

Miki Agrawal and Jason Ojalvo of Tushy, with one of their bidet attachments (just seen in blue). Photograph: Chris Buck/The Guardian

‘Bidets used to scare people. Suddenly it was like we were on a rocket ship’

Miki Agrawal, founder, and Jason Ojalvo, CEO of Tushy, a bidet attachment company based in New York

JO In early March, we started to see a little uptick in sales and my first instinct was that [because of the virus] everyone wanted to be more hygienic, and that a bidet would give them that. We ship internationally, and the Tushy Classic – our bestselling bidet attachment – costs $79 and takes 10 minutes to install [it fits under the seat and is attached to the cistern with a hose]. Then the viral videos of people fighting over toilet paper came out. On 9 March, we did twice what we’d normally sell; the next day it was three times; the day after that it was maybe 20 times, and we had a million dollar sales day when we sold more than 10,000 bidets.

We had a team night out – we call it Forced Fun – and it was this last hurrah, where everyone was on edge and weirded out in this empty bar. The early challenge was production capacity, which we managed to up by about six times. A big part of that was convincing our factories in Asia that it wasn’t just one crazy day, or one crazy week. In April, we changed our revenue target for the year, from $20m to $50m. We also had to hire a dozen new people.

We also sell bamboo butt towels, for people who want to stop buying toilet paper and pat dry. A new, two-month shipment sold out in two or three days. So people are going zero waste and to the next level. I don’t think people will go back now they have discovered bidets, because it’s a game changer – it’s like being given an iPhone and then having to go back to using a rotary dial.

MA It’s a weird product that scares some people. A lot of the negative connotations come from the fact that US soldiers in the second world war associated bidets with the French brothels they visited, so they came back to puritanical America and shunned them. We fully launched Tushy in 2016; the last four years have been about getting people to go against generational attachment to toilet paper and say, “OK, I’ll wash my butt.” We’ve been using humour and a ton of education to lead them towards that cliff edge. So the whole coronavirus thing was just like everyone jumping off at once.

I was in California on sabbatical when everything exploded. I remember FaceTiming the team and everyone was like, this is fun. But after a few days, we were trying to forecast how much stock we needed – and we just couldn’t; I felt the pressure and sadness of the world. It was like we were on a rocket ship, so after a few weeks of the insanity I decided to come back to New York.

If we hit the $50m target, the team will earn a double bonus. Down the road, we’re planning a heated bidet seat. Even though the toilet paper shortage has passed, things are not going back. That part of our body has been neglected and deemed taboo for societal reasons for so long. What we’re saying is, clean it properly, respect it and honour it.

Paul Bodger, Managing Director of Origin Fitness at the companies office in Edinburgh

Paul Bodger, managing director of Origin Fitness. Photograph: Robert Ormerod/The Guardian

‘Two refurbished rowing machines sold in the 60 seconds it took to put them online’

Paul Bodger, MD of Origin Fitness, an exercise equipment company in Edinburgh

A lot of our products are manufactured in China and Taiwan, so we started hearing about factories shutting in January, and that home fitness sales were taking off in Asia. But in early March, our website went bananas. Online sales jumped 1,900%; revenue from those jumped 2,300%, an increase of more than £1m. We were getting a million page views a day and our website, which isn’t built for that traffic, kept crashing. We put a couple of refurbished rowing machines on the site one day and in the 60 seconds it took our web manager to add them, they were sold.

On 17 March, we stopped accepting new orders online, and did the same for two weeks in April. It took the heat and emotion out of the situation. We don’t specialise in retail – about 98% of our business is commercial sales to gyms and other organisations. So I had to furlough most of the staff; when gyms do reopen, the market is going to be slow. Before we ran out of stock, the e-commerce was a lifeline. And I, with other senior management, have been working dispatch, driving forklifts and packing 100kg weights. It’s tough work, but has helped me understand the business again.

Our product range covers everything from £8 dumbbells to exercise bikes costing £5,000; a lot is high-end and not designed for home use. Equipment for online or app-based circuit training – medicine balls especially – exploded. Olympic bars ran out; I thought that would mean the plates that go with them would stop selling, but they didn’t. I imagine there are a lot of people out there lifting our weights with broom handles.

For a lot of customers, it was almost like we were sending their medicine. They would tell us we were helping not just their physical health but their mental health. A good home gym will set you back £10,000, but we had people spending twice that. I keep thinking, are people going to keep this stuff, or is eBay going to be flooded with it? I hope they will keep hold of it, because they won’t want to get caught out again.

Photo of the team at Brixton Cycles in Brixton, London

Lincoln Romain (far right) and Georgina Taylor (on counter) with the team at Brixton Cycles. Photograph: David Yeo/The Guardian

‘People can’t believe you’ve transformed their bike from a garden ornament into something useful’

Lincoln Romain and Georgina Taylor, workers at Brixton Cycles, a staff-owned bike shop in London

LR I’ve been here 30 years. When the pandemic started, I remember thinking that if we had to shut for three months, I didn’t know how we would survive. We’re a non-profit organisation and it’s hand-to-mouth.

Then after Boris Johnson’s announcement about the lockdown [on 23 March], we found out bike shops were an essential business. People started turning up with bikes for repair, left, right and centre. You couldn’t move in the shop for bikes. One morning in April, we sold six in 30 minutes. They were shotgun sales, where people just wanted to ride out on something.

Very quickly we had to bring in social distancing, allowing only four people in the shop at a time. I had one guy approach me, so I put my hand out to get him to stay back, and he was offended. I was like, “Wow. There’s so much going on, people are dying, and people of colour like me are high risk. But you’re getting your nose slightly twisted because you didn’t want me to put my hand up?” On the whole, though, people have been good. More people are cycling, and I’m seeing local families out on bikes with their kids. I like that.

For many people, buying a new bike is not an option. So when you can revive a rusty old thing by giving it new cables and tyres, and oiling up the chain, their eyes light up. They can’t believe you’ve transformed this garden ornament into something useful.

GT It started with fixing zombie bikes: things that had been pulled from gardens and still had snails living on them. Now, a lot of new bikes in Europe and the UK seem to have sold out, so it’s incredibly frustrating – if our suppliers had more bikes, we’d be selling them. You develop a skill for letting people down gently. Every day people would call and ask for the same thing – a hybrid bike that costs around £400 – and I could hear in their voices that they had already phoned around 20 shops and were distraught.

All the money we’ve made has gone into future-proofing the co-op rather than on bonuses or pay rises, because you never know what’s round the corner. Even though we wish it was under different circumstances, it has been important for us to be open and help so many people. We pushed NHS staff up the queue, and we gave a second-hand bike to a psychiatrist who offered us free group therapy as part payment. I said I’d have to talk to the other co-op members, but maybe after this, it might be quite good.

I’m a cynic, and think maybe only 20% of people will stick with cycling. But those of us who rode a bike during lockdown all saw what a pleasant place the city could be with cleaner air and fewer cars on the road. I don’t like the idea of going back to how things were. The world has got a chance to make things a lot nicer – and riding bicycles can be a big part of that.

Photo of Jamie Stanford of Liberty Games for Booming Businesses feature

Jamie Stanford of Liberty Games. Photograph: David Yeo/The Guardian

‘A pool table isn’t a miracle product, but it brings families together’

Jamie Stanford, managing director of Liberty Games, a game table retailer in Epsom, Surrey

Our business started with renting coin-operated equipment to pubs and clubs 20 years ago. But, of course, the pool machine in a pub has been replaced by a dining table now. What we’ve found is that people want to replicate the experience at home, with air hockey, football tables and table tennis sets that start at under £100 and top out at £50,000.

In early March, people started asking, “Can you deliver before lockdown?” When the announcement came, people piled in. Demand was spiking at around four times the average level. A normal March might mean 80 transactions each day – we were selling more than 400 in a 24-hour period. We didn’t run out of stock immediately. I’d love to say that was because I’d been some wizard and predicted it; really, it was because after Christmas you have leftover stock. But then that got depleted, and, working from home, we were a company with one hand tied behind our backs.

I can picture a moment about two weeks into lockdown when I got back from the office at about 7pm, and looked at the sales graph. I refreshed and it jumped up by the equivalent of a week’s sales in one day. I had dinner, thought about how we’d manage that volume. Then I refreshed it again, and another week’s worth of sales had happened in an hour. That was overwhelming. But our delivery companies were set up to deal with seasonal changes in demand, so took on extra staff and vans. My staff were clocking overtime; our more experienced suppliers ringfenced stock; and I was driving sackloads of pool cue chalk to the post office. It was seven days a week, but we muddled through. There was a slightly guilty, awkward feeling to it, when things are so desperate for other businesses. But this stuff does give people a bit of a lift.

One lady who bought a table tennis top said, “This is the first time I’ve seen a smile on my teenager’s face in three years.” Most of us are introduced to games tables on holiday. They are not a miracle product, but they bring families together. If you’ve got a kid playing Xbox all day and not interacting with his dad or his mum, and a pool table turns up, the family has a communal, enjoyable game that they can try to master.

When restrictions started to ease on 13 May, we thought, OK, that’s it, things will settle down. But we still had the same level of demand. I think this [crisis] is changing the psychology of a lot of people. Going to a restaurant, you’ll just become hypersensitive to every cough, every droplet in the air. It will probably take as long as lockdown lasted for these attitudes to wear off. I’m sure the desire to buy a pool table or a football table will eventually wane. But this has surprised me every single day. So I’m done making predictions.

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