TheWorks.co.uk PLC (LON:WRKS), the stationery, novelty and gifts chain, plans to re-open all 465 of its shops across England and Ireland next week with coronavirus social distancing measures in place.
The retailer, which said it will look to re-open its remaining stores in Scotland and Wales as soon as possible, said online sales have been up threefold since the start of the UK lockdown on 23 March, with high demand for stationery products to support childrens' education, mindfulness materials to support mental health, plus puzzle books and other products to "beat the boredom".
Social distancing protocols in stores will include limiting the number of customers at a time, floor stickers to highlight the social distancing rules, perspex screens at tills and hand sanitiser stations, supported by new guidance and training for all colleagues.
Online fulfilment capacity has been expanded in the short-term to help satisfy increased sales volumes, and the company said it was working with its third-party fulfilment partner to further increase capacity for Christmas 2020.
The board continues to believe that the company has enough financial liquidity in place though, with the impact of social distancing on its reopening stores, it was not possible to provide meaningful guidance for the current year.
Shares in TheWorks rose 2% in early trading on Friday to 25.96p, but are down 6% since the start of the year and by 83% since floating two years ago.
Analysts at broker Peel Hunt said the online sales were encouraging, but "the acid test comes next week though when stores reopen: will customers return?
"There are many issues to solve with social distancing for all retailers, but the online evidence is that there is plenty of demand for the product range and we are hopeful. We have lowly expectations and think that the shares are extremely cheap, if lacking in a catalyst."