John Lewis may close up to eight of its remaining outlets in response to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The partnership is understood to be considering a new round of store closures, as the company re-examines the scale of its national network of branches. The new review of the John Lewis operation comes less than eight months after the partnership announced its first wave of closures that affected eight stores.
Those closures came at a cost of 1,300 jobs, with shops in Croydon, Watford, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth now shuttered, as well as small hubs at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras station.
Up to eight more of the 42 remaining outlets could now be closed, according to a report in the Sunday Times, as John Lewis considers cutting space and costs by moving into smaller sites.
The retailer has declined to comment, but any closures would be a new blow to Britain’s high streets, particularly following the recent demise of Debenhams and the Arcadia chain, whose stores will both disappear from town centres and shopping malls accross the UK.
Around 1500 office based roles are also in the process of being cut this year, also as part of efforts to restructure and save costs and assist John Lewis in delivering its five-year Partnership Plan.
More details of the plan are expected to be revealed alongside the company’s annual results, which are due on 11th March. The partnership reported its first ever half-year loss in September 2019, and the mounting problems it was already facing have only been exacerbated by the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
In September last year, after the first lockdown, the company reported that sales were holding up well, as online sales had surged. However, instore business has been severely impacted; before the pandemic, the store group calculated that £6 out of every £10 in sales was linked to browsing in stores, but last autumn it said that Covid had cut sales linked to stores to just £3 out of £10.
As a result the group slashed the notional value of its bricks-and-mortar shops by £470m – which pushed the company to a huge £635m half-year loss. The annual bonus the group traditionally awards to staff was also abandoned for the first time since 1953.
Chairman Sharon White is hoping to revive the group’s fortunes with a move into property, starting by converting nearly half of the company’s flagship department store on London’s Oxford Street into office space. There are also plans to build homes for rent alongside some of the group’s Waitrose supermarkets.