Covid-19: John Lewis unveils store reopening plan

Department store chain John Lewis has mapped out its plans for reopening stores that had to temporarily close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer said it will start reopening sites from 15 June, in line with government guidance announced earlier this week, but will do so following “a gradual approach” and one that follows Covid-19 social distancing protocol.

Its Poole and Kingston department stores will open on 15 June, followed by 11 others on Thursday 18 June, including its Bluewater, Cheadle, Horsham, and Nottingham shops. Branches selected to open have been chosen primarily because of their accessibility by car – the company has 50 stores in total.

Stores reopening will each have a “customer service host” assigned to welcome customers into the shop, answer any queries, and manage customer numbers and queues. There will also be a reduction in the number of shop entrances, caps on visitor numbers, protective screens at checkout, a new contactless payment limit of £45, and a raft of other health and safety measures such as regular deep cleaning.

John Lewis also said it will limit the number of additional customer services it offers, with close-contact beauty counters and customer catering outlets and fitting rooms closed until further notice. Returned stock will be separated from new inventory for 72 hours, in line with government guidance.

Customers will be able to watch a short film on to understand the new measures in more detail. John Lewis has continued to operate its online operations during the UK lockdown period.

The department store chain has also revealed that, depending on customer feedback and the success of the first phase of openings, it may consider virtual queueing, returns drop boxes and click & collect from branch carparks. 

Sharon White, partner & chairperson of the John Lewis Partnership, which also operates grocer Waitrose, said: “Our shops reopening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. 

“There’s an opportunity, now, for us, to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.”

She added: “While we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners.”