The John Lewis Partnership has today announced that it is not planning to reopen eight of its 42 John Lewis shops from lockdown, as it rebalances its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop.
The Partnership also confirmed plans to transfer the running of its Waitrose Distribution Centre in Leyland to XPO Logistics.
The company’s remaining 34 John Lewis shop will reopen from 12 April subject to Government guidance – with the exception of Glasgow, which will reopen from 26 April, and Edinburgh, which will reopen on 14 May.
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 it will enter into consultation with the 1,465 affected Partners about the proposals.
At the Partnership’s full year results earlier this month, John Lewis said it planned to reshape its business in response to how customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online.
This follows research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country. As part of this, the retailer said it can no longer profitably sustain a large John Lewis store in some locations where it does not have enough customers, which is resulting in the proposed closures. The eight shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic, John Lewis added.
“Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years – and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse – we do not think the performance of these eight stores can be substantially improved,” John Lewis said. “We expect 60% to 70% of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future. Nearly 50% of our customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.”
John Lewis in the future
John Lewis stressed its department stores remain critical to future success. “They provide a sensory experience that online cannot, supported by the expertise of our Partners,” it said.
“Having fewer bigger stores allows us to invest significantly to improve our remaining ones, showcasing our inspiring products with more space dedicated to experiences and services. They will be enticing and exciting places to shop, more reflective of the tastes and interests of local customers,” the retailer added.
John Lewis revealed that research showed customers want more convenient access to the brand so it is improving the next day Click & Collect service in Waitrose stores and offering more local collection points through third parties. It is also trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in Waitrose stores and by the autumn, Waitrose general merchandise products will be sourced by John Lewis.
The retailer also plans to test new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis.
In areas where it is proposing not to reopen stores, John Lewis said it will look at the right combination of options for that location to ensure it remains convenient for customers.
Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “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.”
Pippa Wicks, executive director for John Lewis, said: “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 & 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 continues to trade as normal online and we will reopen our remaining stores in line with Government guidelines.
The Partnership has also confirmed it has reached an agreement with XPO Logistics to operate the Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland, Lancashire.
The decision safeguards Leyland’s future and secures employment for 436 Waitrose Partners working there who will transfer to XPO this summer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).
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.”