The John Lewis Partnership has announced that eight of its John Lewis stores will not reopen following their closure during the COVID-19 UK-wide lockdown.
Some 1,300 staff will be at risk and the retailer has said it is entering into consultation and that “every effort would be made to find new roles where possible for Partners who wish to remain within the Partnership.”
The shops set for closure include two of the smallest – they are travel hub shops at Heathrow Airport and St Pancras International station – but also on the list is four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth and two full size department stores in Birmingham and Watford.
This latest announcement is to secure the business’s long-term future and to respond to customers’ shopping needs, the company said.
At the beginning of the month, the retail giant reported it is “highly unlikely” that all 50 of its stores would ever open again. And in March, it reported profits down 23 per cent to £123 million for the year ended 25 January 2020. Chairman, Sharon White (left), said the company would look at “right sizing” its store estate across both the John Lewis and Waitrose brands, through a combination of new formats and new locations, repurposing and space reductions of existing stores, and closures where necessary.
Prior to the pandemic, the eight shops identified were already financially challenged, the Partnership said, and the pandemic has accelerated the switch from shopping in-store to online. Before the virus struck, 40 per cent of John Lewis sales were online. This could now be closer to 60 to 70 per cent of total sales this year and next, it said.
Elsewhere, a number of John Lewis stores have already reopened with many more set for the coming weeks.
On Monday 13 July, stores in Basingstoke, Cardiff, Chelmsford, Chester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Stratford and the Trafford Centre will reopen. The flagship Oxford Street store will open later in the week, on Thursday 16th July.
On 30 July, a further nine shops in Aberdeen, Ashford, Brent Cross, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield and White City Westfield will reopen. Leicester will also reopen when the local lockdown for the city is lifted, taking the total number of reopened John Lewis shops to 42. The Swindon outlet will also reopen on 30 July.
If staff redundancies are confirmed amongst the stores set for closure, the Partnership will provide support through a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for eligible Partners plus they will have access to a three-month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.
Chairman, Ms White, said that closing a shop “is always incredibly difficult” and today’s announcement will come as very sad news.
“We believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the Partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop. Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many Partners as possible within our business.”
She added that John Lewis and Waitrose have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by responding to the new needs of customers and that as part of the Partnership’s latest strategic review both brands will remain relevant for future generations.