Future of Work

The fashion and home retailer Laura Ashley is to appoint administrators after being hit by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The firm said the outbreak “has had an immediate and significant impact on trading”.

Laura Ashley is one of many businesses struggling with the economic effects of the virus.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil a fresh round of support for firms on Tuesday. Laura Ashley had been in talks with its lenders about accessing more funds to continue trading.

But based on cashflow forecasts and continued virus uncertainty, it said it would not get that money in time.

The firm, which was also facing challenging High Street conditions, said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation.”

The effects of the coronavirus outbreak have heaped extra pressure on retailers and other businesses, some of whom are already at breaking point.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil new financial measures to help deal with the effects of the outbreak in the government’s daily briefing on the outbreak on Tuesday afternoon.

He has already announced a £12bn Budget package to help businesses deal with the crisis, including business rates relief and a new hardship fund, but said in his Budget speech he would “not hesitate to act” if more was needed.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the money announced in last week’s Budget now looked potentially “completely inadequate” in the light of the way the crisis had developed.

However, she said she would be surprised to hear pledges similar to those on the drastic scale made by French President Macron, who promised hundreds of billions of euros on Monday.

Ahead of the announcement, Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, told MPs that Britain was facing something akin to a wartime situation for its public finances.

He added that now was not the time for the government to be squeamish about higher debt.

Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI business lobby group, called for co-ordinated, fast, interventions to support businesses. “We do not want to look back and say we acted too late,” she said.


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