David Jones has reported a 19% fall in sales for the four-week period to the end of March, as its large format stores in Australia remain open for business, operating as cashless and accommodating social distancing protocols. Smaller stores, including Barangaroo in Sydney and James Street in Brisbane, closed their doors last week with 5,000 staff members being stood down.

David Jones stores in New Zealand have been closed for almost two weeks due to the lockdown enforced by the New Zealand government.

The department store says the impact from COVID-19 was first felt in Australian stores with a higher proportion of tourist trade and Asian demographic customers but has become more widespread across all stores and customer segments with a significant reduction in foot traffic in March.

David Jones’ online channel is operating as normal and has experienced a significant surge in transactions and revenue. Within the reported four-week period, online sales grew 108%, representing 20.3% of total sales.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of our people, our customers and all our stakeholders, including our extended value chain,” David Jones parent company, Woolworths Holdings (WHL) said in a trading update to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

“In terms of our stores, distribution centres and other operations, we are working closely with our health and safety partners, ensuring that all operations continue to conform to the highest level of hygiene and social distancing protocols.

“In respect of our employees, we have implemented a range of initiatives from alternative working hours to more flexible practices, including work-from-home, leveraging a full suite of technology tools.

“There is a significant focus on facilitating trade and driving revenue including through online channels, given the current circumstances. We are also aggressively reducing costs, managing inventory and working capital.

“Capital expenditure has been cut, with only critical projects moving forward. We have engaged with our suppliers to reduce apparel product intake and to extend payment terms. We are also meeting with landlords to explore alternative arrangements to current lease commitments, through the relevant period.”

The WHL board, group CEO and senior executive team members will forego up to 30% of their fees and salaries over the next three months, with the savings used to provide additional financial support to staff in extreme hardship as a result of the crisis.