This is why bookmaker William Hill is closing 119 shops and repaying furlough money

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 4:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 4:53 pm
William Hill will not reopen 119 betting shops following the cornavirus induced lockdown (Shutterstock)
William Hill will not reopen 119 betting shops following the cornavirus induced lockdown (Shutterstock)

High street bookmaker William Hill has said it will not reopen 119 of its betting shops following the coronavirus-induced lockdown. 

The company, which has 1,500 shops nationwide, said that it wasn’t expecting customers to return to betting shops in the same numbers following lockdown. 

Around 300 staff are affected according to the bookmaker, most of whom have been redeployed elsewhere. 

Despite the negative impact of the pandemic William Hill said that trading had recovered after lockdown. 

The company has said that it plans to repay furlough money borrowed from the government. 

Profits despite lockdown

A statement by the organisation predicted a decline in shop footfall.

The statement said: "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."

Despite the decline in high street shop popularity William Hill has been able to consolidate its presence online. 

The news came in the wake of an announcement declaring pre-tax profits of £141m for the first six months of 2020. 

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, told BBC: "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."

Returning furlough money

The company was one of many which benefited from the government’s furlough scheme. 

Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said that the company would now return money borrowed from the government.

He said: "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."