Michael Hill closes 304 stores, lets go of 1600 Australian staff, because of coronavirus

Following Australian self-distancing rules introduced this week, Michael Hill has let go of 1600 staff.

Citing the difficulty operating its business given social distancing rules, Michael Hill has shut its global network of 304 jewellers indefinitely and let go of 1600 Australian staff.

In an Australian Stock Exchange statement, the Brisbane based company said sales have recently been plummeting.

The retailer hasn’t traded since last week in Canada – where it has 87 outlets.

Yesterday, 52 shops closed following a full-scale shut down of non-essential activity in New Zealand.

In Australia, where it has 165 stores, prime minister Scott Morrison has asked retail employees stand four square metres apart.

People are also supposed to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from each other to stop the coronavirus spread.

“In Australia, the current ‘social distancing’ guidelines are not consistent with the day-to-day conduct of our business,” a Michael Hill statement read. “The drop off in trade the company has experienced in Australia also reflects a customer base that is of course focused on more immediate issues”.

More redundancies might happen “while a review of the…corporate support centre will aim to reduce costs”.

The company will continue to operate its online business but it has deferred an interim dividend payment. Affected employees will have access to leave entitlements.

Michael Hill the latest retailer to fall

Michael Hill chairperson Emma Hill said “whilst it is clear that the suspension of our store network is necessary for the safety and wellbeing of our people and customers – we know also that this will be a time of great uncertainty for them…and we are doing our best to provide them with the support that they need through this difficult time”.

News of the store closure comes a day after Tigerlily, the swimwear brand established by model, businesswoman and James Packer’s ex-wife, Jodhi Meares, which employs about 200 staff, entered voluntary administration.

Outdoor adventure brand Patagonia last week said it would temporarily shut eight outlets.

Since Feburary, homewares retailer ISHKA, Jeanswest and MAdE Establishment Group, co-run by celebrity chef George Calombaris, also announced the closure of bricks-and-mortar stores (though two Jimmy Grants eateries have subsequently sold).

Alex Perry also confirmed he would close his eponymous and only store, in the Sydney CBD.

These joined companies to enter administration last year: Bardot, Co-Op Bookshop, Ed Harry, Karen Millen, Muscle Coach, Napolean Perlis, Shoes of Prey, Zanui and Shannon Bennett’s Benny Burger.

However there has been some good news with Spotlight Group this month acquiring the 170-year old Harris Scarfe business, which fell late last year.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.