Toy chain warns Christmas gifts may not be delivered in time if shops stay shut

The boss of the UK’s biggest toy chain has warned that some children’s presents will not arrive in time for Christmas due to a shortage of couriers if shops are kept shut through December.

Gary Grant, chief of The Entertainer, told the PA news agency there “is not enough delivery capacity” if the current four-week lockdown in England is extended next month.

It came as the retail boss vented his anger at shopping centre giant Westfield, accusing it of “playing hardball” after it threatened legal action over outstanding rent at the start of England’s second lockdown.

Gary Grant, the chief and founder of The Entertainer
Gary Grant, the chief and founder of The Entertainer

Mr Grant said The Entertainer had seen one of its strongest ever Octobers last month as consumers moved their shopping forward due to the pandemic.

He said the company was prepared for the second lockdown, with click and collect services in place at stores and an investment into expanding its online capacity.

But he stressed that it would still be vital that some stores open next month to ensure that retailers such as his can meet the spike in demand they typically see before Christmas.

“Last year, we were delivering at 100% capacity in the run up to Christmas so it’s hard to even contemplate what will happen if stores stay shut,” he said.

“In that case, we won’t be able to deliver all presents in time because there just aren’t enough white vans for all retailers to deliver these goods to homes.”

A shopper
A shopper

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is among groups calling on people to start their Christmas shopping early amid concerns that closures this month could lead to a challenging December.

The chain was among non-essential retailers to close their doors from March until June as a result of the first lockdown period.

In light of the pandemic, the Government introduced a moratorium on lease forfeiture and called for landlords to enter discussions with tenants to reach agreements to support them both through the pandemic.

Mr Grant said most of the company’s landlords had been “reasonable” in recent months, but said he was “appalled” when he received a “final letter before court proceedings” from Westfield threatening legal action on Wednesday.

He said: “We have had constructive conversations with most of our landlords and I spoke with Westfield last week and they didn’t mention this at all.

“We are aware that it is a difficult time for landlords but the Government said it was therefore important that both parties discuss these issues to find an appropriate compromise. This hasn’t happened here.”

The company had paid 40% of its annual rent on its properties in Westfield shopping centres, including the duration of the period when its stores were closed.

“It frustrated me as well because these have been our two poorest performing stores since reopening, down 50% and 45%, as people aren’t getting public transport into London.”

Westfield has been contacted for a response.