- Huw Hughes |
John Lewis has confirmed that eight of its stores will remain permanently closed following lockdown, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk.
Two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford; four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth; and two travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras will not reopen. The company said these eight stores were already “financially challenged” prior to the pandemic.
Approximately 1,300 employees have now entered into consultation. “If redundancies are confirmed, every effort would be made to find new roles where possible for partners who wish to remain within the partnership,” the company said.
It comes as the British department store chain prepares to reopen the final wave of stores on 30 July after closing them all in March for the first time in its 155-year history. The Leicester store will reopen when the local lockdown for the city is lifted.
At the beginning of July, the company said it was “highly unlikely” it would reopen all 50 of its stores following lockdown.
More focus online
“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners. However, 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,” Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said in a statement. “Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many Partners as possible within our business.
“There are many reasons to be optimistic about the partnership’s future. Waitrose and John Lewis are two of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands and we have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by responding to the new needs of customers. We will soon announce the output of our strategic review which will ensure our brands stay relevant for future generations of customers.”
The company said that the pandemic has accelerated the switch from shopping in-store to online. Prior to the outbreak, 40 percent of John Lewis sales were online, now that number is closer to 60 to 70 percent of total sales this year and next.
“Both John Lewis and Waitrose will continue to invest heavily in ecommerce to reflect this shift,” the company said.
Photo credit: John Lewis