moments of silence

It's not business as usual during Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

Several businesses decided to shut as a mark of respect—at least for a few hours.
Show of respect
Show of respect
Photo: Reuters Pool (Reuters)
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Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral will be held in London on Monday, Sept. 19, a date declared a bank holiday in the UK. A government guidance advises employers to consider their staff’s wishes and handle them “sensitively,” but there is no obligation for businesses to shut down, having companies walking a tightrope between showing respect and avoiding disruptions to their services.

In the public sector, schools will shut down, and several hospitals, family doctors and pharmacies will be closed. Among the private businesses that decided to close down are German supermarket Aldi’s 967 stores, variety chain store Poundlands’s 770 outlets, and Costa Coffee’s 2,000-plus outlets. Scores of fashion retailers like Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis, Next, Zara, Primark, Hackett, and Pepe Jeans, will also close. As will nurseries, pet stores, and various other shops.

And it’s not just the UK. Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau declared Sept. 19, 2022, a national day of mourning. While government offices and schools will shut, the country’s banks will operate on a “business-as-usual” basis come Monday. Australia and New Zealand announced similar measures.

But not all closures were met with applause.

The curious case of Central Parcs

British holiday village Center Parcs decided not only to close on the day of the Queen’s funeral, but also evict guests. The company initially said guests in the middle of their stay would have to leave at 10am on Monday for 24 hours.

After facing immense backlash, the company reversed its decision, but damage to its reputation was already done.

“I’d imagine the chief exec of Center Parcs is looking at the fallout and wondering how what they thought would be a great gesture for staff could have gone so horribly wrong,” Andy Barr, chief executive of PR firm 10 Yetis, wrote for The Drum. Barr suggests this debacle happened because the C-suite “either ignored the advice of its communications team or, even worse, never even consulted them during the decision-making process.”

Should stores shut for the Queen’s funeral?

It is a tough line to toe. For one, the country is a melting pot of several diasporas coming from countries with complicated colonial histories who wouldn’t count themselves as royalists.

On a more basic level, people are worried about ending up in a fix if they run out of essentials like nappies and dog food.

Partial closures are the Goldilocks option. That’s what some establishments are doing:

  • McDonald’s will close its 1,300 UK outlets from midnight till 5pm
  • Domino’s will wait for the ceremony to conclude and open at 12pm—an hour later than its usual 11am
  • Tesco’s larger stores will be closed all day, but its Express outlets will open after 5pm
  • Asda will open from 5 pm onwards 
  • Sainsbury’s supermarkets and other businesses like Argos will shut almost entirely, with the exception of it convenience stores and petrol filling stations, which will open from 5pm to 10pm
  • Waitrose will keep a limited number of stores along the funeral route open, which will shut when the funeral starts
  • Grocery chain Morrisons, which has already made its checkout beeps quieter and turned off PA systems, will stay closed but reopen its petrol stations at 5pm

It’s also a business opportunity

Instead of ousting guests like Central Parcs, some businesses are inviting them to mourn collectively.

Six big pub, restaurant, and bar groups have announced they’ll be open for people to come and watch the funeral.

Major cinema chains like Cineworld and Odeon are shutting but others like Curzon and Vue Cinemas will stay open to screen the queen’s funeral for free.

Some cathedrals and parks will also open their doors to broadcast the funeral to members of the public.