Covid-19: Eight John Lewis stores will not reopen, putting 1,300 jobs at risk

The John Lewis Partnership has announced that eight of its stores will not reopen despite the lifting of lockdown, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk. The move is part of the group’s plan to adapt its business model in light of the changing consumer landscape during Covid-19.

The closures include two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford, and At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth. Affected staff will now enter into consultation.

John Lewis added that should redundancies be confirmed, efforts will be made to find new roles in the business for the partners. This could include transferring to local Waitrose shops or working for johnlewis.com and waitrose.com.

It was reported last week that new chairman of the partnership, Sharon White, warned staff in a letter that redundancies were likely to be made due to the financial damage caused to the business by Covid-19.

Speaking on today’s announcement, White 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."

The partnership now plans to continue expanding its eCommerce business to reflect the huge shift to online shopping that has occurred as a result of the lockdown. From representing around 40% of its total sales prior to the pandemic, John Lewis believes eCommerce will make up closer to 60-70% of total sales this year and next.

To reflect this, last month, Waitrose revealed it had processed more than 150,000 online orders in a week for the first time and also unveiled plans to open a third online fulfilment centre in Greenford in conjunction with logistics company Wincanton.

White added: “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.”