Next reopens online sales after boosting Covid-19 safety measures

Next bosses say they will begin selling online again on Tuesday after putting extra safety measures in place to ensure warehouse staff can work safely.

The retail giant closed its online operations in late March in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

But a statement posted on the Next website says warehouse managers have “successfully tested opening and taking a limited number of orders today” and invites customers to shop online again from Tuesday.

The group will start selling childrenswear and some small home items, with more ranges planned at a later date, prompting shares to rise 2% on the FTSE 100 index.

But Next said the online service will start with staff who are “willing and able to safely return to work”, with a small number of employees in each warehouse at any one time.

Only a limited number of orders will be allowed at any one time, with the group pausing orders if it needs to and converting the website to “browse only” until the following morning to keep staff and item pickers safe.

It comes after Next was forced into a U-turn over its initial decision to keep warehouses open for online orders after sustained pressure from politicians and staff.

Last month it was revealed that the company had offered a 20% pay rise to any worker willing to continue picking jumpers, socks and other clothes for customers.

Bosses at the chain say they have spent two weeks “reworking” warehouse operations and have taken “lots of practical measures” to ensure that staff who want to work “feel safe, work safe and are safe”.

“In order to operate our warehouse safely, we are limiting the number of warehouse colleagues working at any time, and so we will limit the number of customer orders we can take each day,” says the statement.

“We have put extra safety measures in our warehouse to ensure our colleagues can work safely for you.”

Next has posted a video on the website explaining safety measures put in place for warehouse staff.

Safety measures include: two-metre floor markings to help staff maintain social distancing, a one-way movement system, and sanitising stations.

Staff will also wear tabards marked on the back with the message “Stay 2 metres apart” and will be given “keep clean kits”.