M&S forced to rope off clothing as Mike Ashley blasts confusing rules

Marks & Spencer has been forced to shut half of its clothing and homeware areas, more than it originally thought necessary, under new lockdown rules.

Further guidance was released on which shops are essential and what they are allowed to sell as England entered a second lockdown on Thursday.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents the industry, said the rules created “arbitrary” lines over what was deemed essential.

A supermarket can, for example, sell “non-essential” homeware if it is stocked on its aisles. If the goods are on a separate floor, it must close the area.

Before the lockdown, M&S was preparing to close up to 20pc of its space selling non-essential items. In light of the fresh details, 238 floors will now shut – over half of its non-food space.

As a result, the retailer will put more staff on furlough ahead of Christmas. Earlier this week M&S already announced it had swung to a loss for the first time in its 94 years as a public company after its clothing and home business was hammered during the crisis.

Billionaire retailer Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, Evans Cycles and Frasers department stores, has confirmed it will not keep any outlets open in England. The company launched a scathing attack on the Government as other bike retailers have been allowed to trade. 

It said: “The Government has been unwilling, over a period of six months, to even clarify what it believes a ‘bicycle shop’ is. The likes of Mr [Michael] Gove are failing to provide the leadership and guidance that businesses require.”

The BRC, which estimates closed shops will lose out on £2bn a week, added: “Unfortunately for many people, this means they cannot visit shops to get the items that are essential to them, from the home office equipment and electronics they need for work, or the pots, pans, fridges and freezers they need during lockdown.”

The comments came a day after the boss of JoJo Maman Bébé hit out at ministers for forcing the babywear retailer to close up shop during lockdown, saying it provides vital support for young families and should be allowed to stay open.

Laura Tenison, who founded the chain in 1993, said it is “extraordinary” that pregnancy, new baby and toddler clothes and equipment are not included on a Government list of essentials. 

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Railway operator blasts bride, groom seen taking wedding pics on railroad tracks: ‘Plain stupidity’

Here comes the bride, all dressed in white. And look, there’s a train behind her. Literally.

The operators of a large railway-infrastructure network in the U.K. are publicly shaming a bride and groom who posed for wedding photos on its railway tracks, describing their actions as “plain stupidity.”

“Wedding photos or selfies on the track are just plain stupidity," said Allan Spence, the head of Passenger and Public Safety for the U.K. Network Rail service.

“Wedding photos or selfies on the track are just plain stupidity,” said Allan Spence, the head of Passenger and Public Safety for the U.K. Network Rail service.
(Network Rail)

Network Rail, which owns and operates 20,000 miles of railway track, and manages 20 of the U.K.’s biggest train stations, made the comment on Monday, in a news release warning of significant increases in instances of trespassing on the tracks.

“Newly released figures from Network Rail and British Transport Police show that there were 5,100 trespass incidents over the summer months, with the total number of incidents recorded in September 2020 — 1,239 — the worst recorded for that month in the past five years,” reads the release.

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Network Rail partially blames the easing of lockdowns as the cause, noting an uptick in instances in both August and September — the first such uptick observed in three years for those particular months. More specifically, Network Rail claims adults make up the bulk of offenders, likely thanks to a “You vs. Train” campaign it launched in 2018, warning younger citizens of the dangers of youth trespassing.

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To illustrate its point, Network Rail also released photographs from recent trespassing incidents, including the photo of the bride and groom posing on the tracks, as well as a picture of a photographer setting up lighting equipment near a railway in Wales.

The railway service claims to have observed a significant increase in adults ignoring their warnings to stay off the tracks

The railway service claims to have observed a significant increase in adults ignoring their warnings to stay off the tracks
(Network Rail)

“The railway is not an appropriate or safe setting for a photographic backdrop, no matter how scenic the setting,” said Alison Evans, superintendent of the British Transport Police, in a statement included with the news release. “Every time someone strays onto the rail network they are not only putting themselves at risk of serious, life-threatening injury, but also delaying essential journeys. Passenger and freight trains are still using the railway 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing much needed services of transporting people and goods. Please, stay off the track.”

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Allan Spence, the head of Passenger & Public Safety for Network Rail, put it more bluntly: “Wedding photos or selfies on the track are just plain stupidity.”

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