Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest responses from UK variety discounters

Date : 27 April 2020

Lucy Ingram

Retail Analyst

In this article we look at what UK variety discounters are doing to address the challenges created by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Temporary store closures

  • B&M will be closing 49 stores as a response to the current trading conditions. The retailer has not announced what stores these will be, but has said it is likely they will be small format stores
  • Poundland will be closing 130 stores during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak


  • Increased its contactless card limit to £45
  • Introduced a traffic light system on social media, to help guide shoppers towards shopping safely, by avoiding its peak times. The retailer has said it is busiest time is between 11am and 3pm
  • Removed all limits on essential items
  • Perspex screens will be installed at all checkouts 
  • The flow of shoppers into stores will be managed 
  • A limited number of tills will be open to ensure extra distance at checkouts
  • 2m floor markings in stores will help aid social distancing 
  • Re-stocking will only occur outside of store opening hours to minimise the contact between staff and shoppers 

It is focusing on ensuring cleanliness in stores by;

  • 20,000 units of hand santizer will be available for exclusive use of store teams 
  • Staff washing hands every 20 minutes
  • Cleaning the surfaces every hour
  • Using floor markings to help shoppers identify appropriate social distance from each other
  • Limiting cash handling


  • Prioritising food, toiletries and cleaning products over non-grocery in all warehouses and on lorries
  • Providing extra support for the elderly and vulnerable finding products and taking shopping to the car
  • Future action (a specific time frame for this has not yet been announced); A dedicated period every week for elderly and vulnerable shoppers
  • B&M will also be donating £1m to foodbanks across the UK. Each store will provide a local foodbank with a £1,500 donation to buy essential goods and toiletries
  • The retailer has created an extra 200 jobs in its Liverpool Speke distribution centre. People who have been laid off as a conseqeunce of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will be prioritised for the jobs
  • Donating 10,000 Easter eggs to local hospitals
  • Using social media to recognise it's team members going above and beyond to help the community


Source: B&M Twitter


Home Bargains

  • Limiting the number of products shoppers can buy that are in high demand
  • Prioritising the first hour of opening for vulnerable shoppers
  • The retailer has set aside a £30 million Coronaviurus Fund to help staff members through the outbreak. This will be so it can provide;
    • Full pay for those who have to self-isolate
    • Two weeks extra pay for those that don't have to self-isolate between now and December, so they do not miss out
  • Changed its social media handles to '(Stay at Home) Bargains' to reflect the need to stay at home


  • All team members are given the time to regularly wash their hands
  • Regular tannoy announcements go out across all stores to remind shoppers of social distancing, floor markers will also be placed at tills
  • Customer marshals will guide shoppers at all store entrances
  • Limiting cash transactions with card only tills
  • Stores will close an hour earlier at 5pm to give extra time for cleaning and restocking
  • Protective screens are being installed at till points

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