The John Lewis Partnership has announced it will temporarily close all 50 of its John Lewis stores at close of play today (23 March) due to the impact of Coronavirus.
This is the first time in the retailer’s 155-year history that it will not open its shop doors to customers.
Its website – johnlewis.com – which generates half the brand’s business, will continue to operate as normal, alongside waitrose.com and all 338 Waitrose stores in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands. Click & Collect orders can still be collected from Waitrose branches.
Chairman, Sharon White, said that the welfare of customers, communities and Partners is always the company’s “absolute priority”.
“While it is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops,” she said, “our Partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting their fellow Partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through johnlewis.com, which is seeing extremely strong demand.
The retail giant reported in its latest statement that its shop footfall in John Lewis has fallen and “this extraordinary volatility makes predicting full year cash flow and profits difficult”. It expects sales in Electricals & Home Technology departments to increase “as people continue to work from home and need to stay connected”.
“We are a diversified, resilient and strong business”, Ms White said. “Our financial strategy is focused on improving our financial strength and flexibility and managing cash and liquidity tightly. The Government’s decision to introduce a business rates holiday will save the Partnership around £160m over the next 12 months, and in addition, VAT and wages support is welcomed.”
In other news, The John Lewis Partnership has said that from today (23 March), Waitrose shops will set aside a proportion of hard-to-find and essential products from every delivery that arrives into its supermarkets – exclusively for NHS staff.
In addition, NHS staff will be given priority checkout service in the retailer’s shops to ensure they are able to get through as quickly and easily as possible – through either dedicated NHS checkouts, Partners opening up new tills for them as needed or moving to the front of the queue.
In addition, John Lewis is responding to requests from NHS workers for anything that would make their breaks more comfortable. The retailer will be donating items such as pillows, phone chargers, eye masks and hand cream, as well as 50,000 Easter treats, to hospitals.
These new measures follow the launch of a £1million Community Support Fund to help local communities along with a protected shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable.