British bookmaker William Hill is set to close 119 of its land-based betting outlets across the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
300 staff have been affected as a result of this decision, though Hills says that many of these have been redistributed to other shops.
The operator recently revealed its H1 2020 statistics, which revealed that year-on-year revenue declined by almost a third.
William Hill has 1,500 shops across the UK, but said that it doesn’t think customers will return in the same numbers they had prior to the virus.
The recovery starts now
According to the company, post-lockdown trading is recovering. It is in the process of repaying £24.5 million in furlough funds, which were required to keep paying employees during the three-month-long lockdown.
7,000 of William Hill’s personnel, who are spread across 10 countries, are based in the UK.
In a statement related to its store closures, it had the following to say.
“We anticipate that longer-term retail footfall will not return to pre-COVID levels and 119 [UK] shops will remain closed following early lease breaks, with the majority of colleagues redeployed within the estate.”
William Hill had already been reducing its land-based presence
William Hill’s latest round of closures amount to around 8% of its stores throughout the country. However, it has been in the process of trimming down its land-based outlets across the UK for a while now.
Last year, the operator announced that it would shut 700 of its shops. This followed the introduction of a new mandatory limit on fixed-odds betting odds terminal stakes, dropping the maximum from £100 to £2.
Begbies Traynor Partner Julie Palmer mentioned that much of Hills’ success in the future will come from how it fares online.
“A spike in bored consumers turning to online gaming provided some respite and much-needed revenue, offering a new market for the company to target.
“But the business will need to continue developing its technology platform and product offering if it is to regain some of the lost revenue from the past few months in what is a competitive market.”
William Hill suffers major revenue loss in H1 2020; profits paint a better picture
The impact of the pandemic was clear to see on the business. Upon publishing its financial results for the first half of this year, it was revealed that William Hill generated £554 million. This was 32% lower than had been the case in H1 2019.
There was better news elsewhere, though. The company reported £141 million in pre-tax profits, which was largely thanks to a VAT refund of £200 million. Last year, William Hill had reported a £63 million pre-tax loss.
William Hill Chief Executive Ulrik Bengtsson shared his thoughts on how the company fared during the lockdown.
“I am delighted with William Hill’s performance in these extraordinary times. Our team has been remarkable, supporting each other and our customers throughout the pandemic, and I would like to thank them for their continuing efforts.
“The furlough scheme provided welcome and timely support, and meant we could protect the jobs of our 7,000 UK retail colleagues. Therefore, given the strength of our recovery post-lockdown, we have decided to repay the furlough funds.”