Bensons for Beds today made significant changes to its manufacturing and trading businesses after Saturday’s unexpected announcements of revised lockdown rules (see related). 

The retailer confirmed today that it had worked through the weekend to introduce significant measures to align its business to the new lockdown rules introduced across Britain by Government. The key store measures implemented include: the immediate closure of 52 stores in English Tier 4 areas and Wales, representing around a quarter of its estate (Bensons’ new Milton Keynes store, which has only traded for two days, is included in the enforced closure); and stores in the rest of England and in Scotland where different essential retail rules apply will be closed as normal on 23rd and 24th December, and re-open as planned on Boxing Day.

Bensons’ Huntingdon manufacturing site remains fully operational to fulfil new and existing orders, but has activated a plan to split shifts into two groups of around 150 colleagues to enable it to stay open safely. The factory – responsible for around half of Bensons’ orders – remains in Tier 2, but borders on new Tier 4 locations in Cambridgeshire. Bensons recently hired an additional 45 manufacturing operatives to work an additional shift because of sustained high demand.

Bensons has immediately begun marketing its Boxing Day offer of 20% off beds, mattresses and bedroom furniture, and will extend those promotions beyond their intended end date in mid-January. 

Deliveries will continue uninterrupted by the new lockdowns. Deliveries scheduled pre- and post-Christmas will be made by crews adhering to strict standards of hygiene and social distancing. 

Bensons’ revamped website remains open for business, and is now offering virtual appointments from selected stores to help those wishing to shop from home. Bensons’ Boxing Day offers will go live online from Wednesday. 

Mark Jackson, chief executive of Bensons for Beds, says he was "extremely disappointed" by the short notice for these new measures. “No-one more than us wants a return to normality as quickly as possible, and we accept the need for tougher measures," he says.

“However, this move is a significant blow to homeware retailers who rely on a peak trading period centred around post-Christmas sales, rather than the run-up to 25th December. 

“And because of the impact on our people – we will have no choice but to furlough a significant number of our store colleagues after Christmas – we share their dismay at having their Christmas plans turned upside down.   

“We’re truly sorry for the new disruption to their lives with just seven hours’ notice. While we know they understand this was out of our control, that doesn’t make the reality any less acceptable. Retailers like us are now in a twilight zone – an open-ended shutdown across a large portion of Britain – that will make the nation’s recovery that much harder in 2021.   

“What’s more. there is simply no discernible logic to the decision to treat all non-food retailers in the same way.”    

Alongside high standards of hygiene, Bensons says it has spacious stores, with an average footfall that means social distancing is easy to achieve and enforce.