A List of British and Irish Institutions That Might Not Survive Coronavirus

By Holly Brockwell on at

It's not just human beings that might not see the other side of the covid-19 crisis. Sadly some British businesses, brands and institutions may not survive either. Here's a list of the ones we think are potentially on thin ice.

(Note: clearly, small businesses are at much higher risk than the ones listed here, but we can't realistically list all of those).

(Another note: if you're going to buy from any of the websites of these businesses anytime soon, we would recommend using a credit card to get Section 75 protection (over £100), and not to spend any money you can't potentially afford to lose if it goes belly-up.)

Laura Ashley

The main surprise here for many people was that this retail brand – best known for dresses and sofas in 80s floral fabrics – is still going.

However, it's not looking good. The chain was already in serious trouble before covid-19 hit, and it's now gone into administration, closing at least half of its stores and having a massive website sale while it searches for a buyer. Floral Sports Direct mugs may be on the cards.

Carphone Warehouse

No one expected a business with 'carphone' in the name to last into 2020, and we're not sure how much further it has to go. As places like McDonald's are announcing they're temporarily shutting branches until coronavirus buggers off, Carphone Warehouse announced that it's shutting all 531 of its shops permanently in April.

It turns out this isn't even because of covid-19 – it's just doing really badly. For now, it's keeping its concessions inside PC World and Currys open, and the website. Whether that will still be the case after The Summer of Corona will be interesting to see.

Thorntons

Things haven't been going great for this purveyor of delicious chocolates for some time, and this might well be the sad end of a brand that's been around since 1911.

Owner Ferrero shut some Thorntons branches including the one on Oxford Street in London last year, and all remaining stores and cafés are now closed because of coronavirus, which won't help at all with getting more money in. The website is still operating for now, so you can get your Easter egg iced with a suggestive message like always.

Primark

The Irish company was already on dodgy ground with coronavirus, since the pandemic threatened its supply of cheap stuff from China. Now, it's also threatening to stop anyone buying the bits of tat left in stock, so the company closed all 189 stores "until further notice" even before Boris' announcement yesterday.

Unlike pretty much every retail brand in existence, Primark does not sell from its website, which is looking like a fairly fatal error from where we're standing.

Debenhams

Another one that's been in trouble for a while. Debenhams was sold in a pre-pack administration deal last April, which infuriated self-styled High Street Saviour Mike Ashley of Sports Direct fame, because he didn't get to be CEO and lost a lot of money on his shares.

The deal allowed Debenhams' group of lenders to take over operations in return for wiping out a huge amount of the company's debt. Since then, it's closed a load of stores, tried to negotiate a five-month rent holiday, and now closed its stores because of coronavirus. The website is still trading, and – you guessed it – is having a sale.

Intu

Not a household name in its own right, but you'll likely know the shopping centres it owns – including Manchester's Trafford and Arndale Centres, Broadmarsh and Victoria Centre in Nottingham, Lakeside in Essex, Metrocentre in Gateshead and St. David's in Cardiff.

Since owning shops is a crapshoot in the current climate, it's no surprise that owning lots of shopping centres is not going well either – Intu had to abandon its attempt to get £1bn of funding earlier this month, and is now apparently "on the brink of collapse," with a loss of £2bn and a drop of 22% in the value of its properties. Yikes.

HMV

Again, it's mostly surprising that the legendary music shop is still going at this point, after so many problems over the past few years. Its historic Oxford Street store became a Sports Direct back in '17, it's been in administration twice (the first time being in 2013, before retail even really started tanking), temporarily rose again, followed by news that the new owners were basically giving up on it.

It's now closing its stores "temporarily" because of coronavirus, but we can't see much of a future for this once-beloved brand without a pretty major change of direction. Yes, the website is still trading, for some reason.

GAME

Like HMV, GAME's future has been in jeopardy for a while, and it was somewhat inevitably bought out by Sports Direct last summer.

Yesterday, GAME announced that its Belong gaming cafés were closed but its high street shops were bizarrely still open. This seems irresponsible, perhaps born of desperation or a desire to capitalise on the sudden home gaming boom.

"According to a report from Eurogamer, the Basingstoke head office is also still open, with staff expected to show up to work unless they're at risk, expressing symptoms, or living with someone who's already ill."

Yikes, GAME. Not cool.

As of today though, GAME stores are closed, presumably because of Boris telling all non-essential retailers they had to. The company is still selling via its website, but we're not linking to it because it was crappy of them to leave the shops open like that.

Jack Wills

Another one owned by Sports Direct. We can't imagine many people are buying wanky, overpriced varsity-style clothes right now. There are also signs of trouble – some gift vouchers not being honoured and multiple rounds of store closures.

Arcadia

AKA Sir Philip Green's group of stores, including Topman/Topshop, Burton, Miss Selfridge etc. It's been having problems in line with the general retail doldrums for a while, with closures announced then increased, followed by a bad Christmas and even more closures.

Now, Arcadia has announced it's closing all its stores for the forseeable future, but will still be selling online on its Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop and Wallis websites, and yes, there are discounts on everything.

Carpetright

It was in trouble already, being sold for a discount price to one of its investors last year. Now, it's closing all small stores but leaving its big retail park ones open for the time being. God only knows who's buying carpet right now, but there is – as ever – a sale on.

Paddy Power/Betfair

A less-obvious side effect of the cancellation of all sport and live events (except Cheltenham, tut) is a dearth of betting, which is estimated to cost Flutter Entertainment, owner of Paddy Power and Betfair, up to £110m in the next few months.

Betting is perfectly easy to do on the companies' websites, of course, but people still need stuff to bet on. Some folks  have uncharitably suggested the companies set up a coronavirus death pool – an option they have thankfully so far ignored.

Wetherspoons

Spoons chairman Tim Martin likes to use his link with the cheap chain to dispense his political views – sometimes through the medium of beer mats. Right now, he's decided to have a big rant about the need to close pubs to keep people safe from coronavirus, describing it as "over the top" and declaring that there has "hardly been any transmission" of covid-19 in pubs, based on unclear (read: zero) evidence.

This point of view is so ridiculous that it's even upset Piers Morgan, who is for once on the right side of the debate. He's advised his audience to avoid Spoons:

That probably won't be enough to sink them, but between that, the generally bad times for pubs and coronavirus measures, they might just be in trouble.

If you're looking for an alternative pub chain, Fullers recently announced it won't be collecting rent from its pub tenants who've been forced to close by the government.

The Queen

To be clear, we are not saying we hope she won't survive. But the facts are, she's 93 years old, and this virus has been demonstrably more fatal to older people.

Elizabeth II has cancelled her annual garden parties this year and fled to Windsor Castle with the Duke of Edinburgh, who is 98 with multiple known health conditions that have required hospital treatment in recent years.

While there's a big, elaborate plan for the Queen's death prepared, we're less sure about what would happen if she passed during a pandemic – obviously there couldn't be public gatherings to mourn as there otherwise would be. It'd also be challenging to stage Prince Charles's coronation (no pun intended) since it would be rather difficult to maintain two metres between participants. Could the crown be placed on his head by drone...?

Charles is no spring chicken himself at 71, of course, and in the unlikely and sad event both mother and son were to pass away, our new king would be Prince William – provided that Charles passed first. If not, it would presumably go to him if he were well enough, then William on his passing. Depressing to think about.

The country is already in some pretty major turmoil – a change or even two changes of monarch at the same time could be seriously destabilising. Especially after the closure of Greggs.