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H&M asks landlords for rent holiday as coronavirus hits sales
17 March 2020

H&M has joined the growing number of retailers asking their landlords for a rent holiday as coronavirus stops shoppers going to UK high streets.

The Swedish fashion giant said it has written to landlords to ask for “relief on the rents and charges for the period”.

On Monday, the group reported that sales across Europe have been “negatively impacted” by the coronavirus outbreak, with stores in Poland, Spain, France and Belgium all temporarily shut.

The request, which was first reported by CoStar News, comes after fellow UK retailers and dining chains such as Debenhams and Carluccio’s also asked landlords if rent payments could be held back.

In a statement, H&M said: “This is an extreme situation and H&M Group is working extensively to manage the Covid-19 situation, the highest priority being the safety of employees and customers.

“All activities in the company are now being carefully evaluated – including costs and risk perspective – to be able to mitigate the negative effects associated with the virus as far as possible.

“We are constantly monitoring developments based on public announcements made by the relevant authorities.

“For H&M Group, this has resulted in the closure of multiple affected stores in various cities and countries and a large drop in traffic in many locations.

“We see it as a joint responsibility between us and our partners to ensure a financially stable and sustainable future for our businesses. Therefore, we ask for relief on the rents and charges during this period.”

On Monday, Debenhams called for an immediate five-month rent holiday as the industry faces “unprecedented pressures” because of the pandemic.

The retailer has already been in financial difficulty in recent months, closing 22 stores in January, with another 28 stores expected to close later this year.

A Debenhams spokesman said: “All retailers are facing unprecedented pressures from the current situation and we are managing our operations to minimise risks to colleagues and customers whilst – as far as possible – trading as normal.

“We have access to funding, supportive investors and an experienced leadership team that will take appropriate action to manage through this period.”

Retailers and industry group are hoping that the Government will unveil more support for businesses who are set to face the impact of its call for “social distancing” in response to the outbreak.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said: “Measures open to the Chancellor later today to help the retail sector include deferment of payment and suspending all enforcement action on arrears by extending time to pay to business rates whilst speeding up the resolution of appeals to provide a cash stimulus.”

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