John Lewis has named the next eight stores to close, which will see 1465 staff affected and the store estate reduced to 34 branches.
“Today’s announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years,” said John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White.
John Lewis first warned of another round of store closures earlier this month in its full year trading update and has now confirmed that eight John Lewis stores will not reopen when restrictions on non-essential retail are lifted next month. The partnership revealed that consultations with 1465 staff affected by the proposals have already begun and said it would ‘make every effort to find alternative roles’ in the business for as many staff as possible.
The eight John Lewis stores identified for closure include four smaller At Home shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells, plus four full-size department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York. The latest closures bring the John Lewis store count down to 34.
John Lewis said it undertook substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits, and could no longer profitably sustain a large John Lewis store in locations where it does not have enough customers. The eight shops earmarked for closure were said to be already financially challenged prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the retailer does not believe their trading performances could be improved.
The latest round of store closures follows eight stores ceasing to trade last year, when 1300 staff were affected. In addition, 1500 job cuts were made at the company’s head office at the start of 2021, as part of the company’s wider turnaround plan.
The plan appears to involve a drastic sea-change for company, which said: “By 2030, 40% of our profits will come from areas outside retail, namely financial services, housing and outdoor living”. The partnership said that these businesses were ‘higher margin’, and therefore could ‘more sustainably support a model of employee ownership’.
Last October it was confirmed that 45% of the John Lewis flagship Oxford Street building would be converted into dual use space, and plans have been revealed to open John Lewis shop-in-shops and improve the click-and-collect service across Waitrose’s 331 stores within the next 12 to 18 months.
The partnership said today that it would be ‘testing new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis’, and added that it now expected between 60-70% per cent of sales would be made online in the future.
Sharon White commented: “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.”