No decision has yet been made on how many stores will be permanently closed, or which locations will be affected.
John Lewis chairman Sharon White has confirmed that the retailer will permanently close a number of its stores. In a letter to staff, she also revealed that a London office will be shuttered and this year’s annual bonus – viewed as an integral part of the employee-owned group’s culture – will be shelved for 2021 in an effort to retain cash.
The letter notes that John Lewis is in talks to end leases with a number of its landlords, and is attempting to renegotiate the terms of others. Any closures will result in job losses, staff have been warned, though as this stage it isn’t known which stores are set to go. The retailer is aiming to make a final decision and update staff by the middle of July.
In the letter, Sharon said: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores. Regrettably, it is likely that there will be implications for some [staff members’] jobs.”
She added that while trade had not been as bad as feared, the company needed to preserve cash as it expected trading to be tougher in the coming months. “There is clearly a lot of uncertainty but, as things stand, it is hard to see the circumstances where we will be able to pay a bonus next year. I know this will be a blow for partners who have made sacrifices these past months,” Sharon wrote.
Non-essential retailers were given permission to re-open from 15th June, and since then John Lewis has opened 22 of its 50 locations. Plans to re-open a further 10 were announced yesterday, including Oxford Street.