British department store chain John Lewis has decided to shutter eight stores. These include 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. The store closures are likely to impact around 1,300 employees – or ‘Partners’ – of John Lewis.
“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and this announcement has 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,” stated Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, these eight stores were “financially challenged.” The pandemic has only accelerated the move from in-store to online, as 40% of sales at John Lewis were already happening online – even pre-COVID. The online sales might increase to approximately 60-70% of total sales in 2020-21.
Both John Lewis and Waitrose – part of the same group – will continue to invest “heavily” in e-commerce in a post-pandemic world. 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. Waitrose Rapid, which allows shoppers to order and receive essential items within two hours, will also expand.
“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,” White added.