The John Lewis Partnership has announced it will not reopen eight John Lewis shops to secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs. It will now enter into consultation with impacted Partners about its proposals.
This announcement comes as the final wave of shop reopenings is confirmed. A further nine shops in Aberdeen, Ashford, Brent Cross, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield and White City Westfield will reopen on 30 July. Leicester will also reopen when the local lockdown for the city is lifted, taking the total number of reopened John Lewis shops to 42. The Swindon outlet will also reopen on 30 July.
The shops identified for closure include two of the smallest in the estate – travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras, four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth and two full size department stores in Birmingham and Watford. Approximately 1,300 Partners across the eight shops will now enter 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. Opportunities could include transferring to local Waitrose shops or working for johnlewis.com and waitrose.com as they continue to grow. The Partnership has also made a commitment to provide support through a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any Partner with two years’ service or more. All Partners would be given access to a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills. In addition to statutory redundancy payments, Partners who have worked with the business for more than a year would be entitled to Partnership redundancy pay, which equates to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age. Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay.
Prior to the pandemic, the eight shops identified were already financially challenged and the pandemic has accelerated the switch from shopping in-store to online. Before the virus struck, 40 percent of John Lewis sales were online. This could now be 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. Waitrose has already doubled its online capacity since the beginning of the pandemic. This will grow further, with a third online fulfilment centre in Greenford opening in partnership with logistics company Wincanton, and the continuing expansion of Waitrose Rapid, which allows shoppers to order and receive essential items within two hours. Further investment in johnlewis.com is also planned.
John Lewis shops have a vital role to play within the business and we are working on plans to ensure they continue to meet the needs of customers, alongside a vibrant ecommerce operation. These plans form part of a major strategic review, announced in March, to ensure the future success of the Partnership. This will report back later this month.
Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “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. 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.”
It is intended that a £1 million Community Investment Fund will be provided and shared between the communities to support local projects.