John Lewis confirms closure of 8 stores

John Lewis is planning to permanently close eight of its 42 stores.

When non-essential retail shops are allowed to reopen from 12 April, the retailer confirmed only the remaining 34 John Lewis shops will reopen (subject to Government guidance).

It said it is “rebalancing” its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop. This comes after The John Lewis Partnership revealed earlier this month it recorded a pre-tax loss of £517 million for the year to 30 January 2021, compared to profits of £146 million the previous year.

The company said this was a result of severe COVID trading restrictions and substantial exceptional costs of £648m due to the “pronounced shift to online” and the subsequent write down in the value of John Lewis shops during the crisis. It warned then that permanent store closures could happen.

John Lewis Sheffield

The eight shops identified for closure include four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, York and Sheffield – which is the oldest (1940) and one of the largest in this list.

John Lewis said these stores were “financially challenged” prior to the pandemic and they could no longer be profitably sustained.

It is consulting with affected members of staff about the changes.

Alongside the Partnership’s full year results, it referred to the significant shift to online shopping in recent years – and its belief that this trend “will not materially reverse”, adding that an expected 60 to 70 per cent of John Lewis sales will be made online in the future.

In a statement today (24 March), Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Having fewer bigger stores allows us to invest significantly to improve our remaining ones.

“We’re improving the next day Click & Collect service in Waitrose stores and trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores. We will also be testing new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis.”

Ms White said earlier this month that an £800m investment will support the company’s turnaround in the coming year; part of this includes the Partnership’s much-referred-to five-year plan.

She added today: “The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it.”

John Lewis reported that the 34 shops will reopen unless specified, while Glasgow is planned to reopen from 26 April and Edinburgh from 14 May.