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John Lewis confirms which eight stores to close

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

24 Mar 2021


Department store John Lewis has confirmed that it is not planning to reopen eight of its 42 stores from lockdown in the UK, as it looks to “rebalance” its store estate to reflect how it feels customers want to shop.

In a statement, John Lewis said that some shops planned not to reopen are in locations that it explains “can’t sustain a large store” and when retail is allowed to reopen from April 12, only 34 stores will open their doors to customers.

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, Sheffield and York.

John Lewis said that it will enter into consultation with the 1,465 affected employees about its proposals, adding that if it proceeds with the closures it will “make every effort to find alternative roles in the Partnership for as many Partners as possible”.

Of the stores earmarked for closure, one has been open since 1940 in Sheffield, while the newest store only opened in 2015 in Basingstoke, and nearly all are within five miles of a Waitrose store. The exception is Aberdeen, where customers are going to be most affected as the nearest John Lewis is in Edinburgh, 127 miles away, while the nearest Waitrose is in Stirling, 120 miles away.

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said in a statement: “Today’s announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected Partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years.

“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it. Customers will still be able to get the trusted service that we are known for - however and wherever they want to shop.”

John Lewis to close Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York stores, alongside four ‘At Home’ shops

The reasoning behind the closures John Lewis stresses is part of its strategy to reshape its business in response to how its customers are increasingly want to shop in-store and online. The stores earmarked for closure were selected following “substantial research” to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country. This revealed that it was no longer able to sustain a large John Lewis store format in locations where it doesn’t have enough customers.

John Lewis added that all eight shops were “financially challenged” before the pandemic and with a significant shift to online shopping in recent years that it believes that the performance of the stores could not be “substantially improved,” especially as it is predicting that 60 to 70 percent of John Lewis sales will be made online in the future. Currently, nearly 50 percent of its customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.

Pippa Wicks, executive director for John Lewis, added: “Closing stores is the toughest thing we do as a Partnership because we all own our business. If the closures are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for Partners and for us to continue to serve our customers by providing access to John Lewis in different ways.

“Alongside a growing online business and the expansion of next day Click and Collect, we will invest in our in-store services and experiences, as well as new, smaller neighbourhood formats and the introduction of John Lewis ranges in more Waitrose shops.”

John Lewis stresses that department stores “remain critical” to its future despite closures

While closures are needed, John Lewis is adding that department stores are “critical” to its future success, as they provide a “sensory experience that online cannot, supported by the expertise of our Partners”. But it adds that having fewer bigger stores will also mean that it can invest significantly to improve the rest of its store portfolio to ensure that they are “enticing and exciting places to shop”.

Its research also reveals that its customers want more convenient access to John Lewis so the retail group added that they are improving the next day Click and Collect service in Waitrose stores and offering more local collection points through third parties. The retailer will trial the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in Waitrose stores and by the autumn, Waitrose general merchandise products will be sourced by John Lewis.

In addition, the retailer added that it will be testing new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis.

Plus the retail group will strengthen its online presence, through its website and app, and will build upon the success of its virtual appointments, with John Lewis explaining that its partners have hosted more than 11,000 across home design, personal styling and nursery.

Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland to be operated by XPO Logistics

The Partnership also confirmed that we have reached an agreement with XPO Logistics to operate the Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland, Lancashire, on its behalf. The site it said is key to its operations and remains significantly underused and the agreement will safeguard the future of the distribution centre. The deal also secures employment for 436 Waitrose Partners working there who will transfer to XPO this summer.

Andrew Murphy, executive director of operations, said: “I am very grateful for the efforts of Partners in Leyland who have served the Partnership brilliantly. The agreement announced today secures employment at the site and I am confident that, under the stewardship of XPO Logistics, Leyland will go from strength to strength.”

John Lewis will open its remaining 34 stores from April 12, subject to Government guidance, except for Glasgow, which will reopen from April 26, and Edinburgh, which will reopen on May 14.

Images: courtesy of John Lewis

John Lewis
John Lewis Partnership