John Lewis announces eight further store closures
John Lewis has confirmed the latest stores that won’t reopen after lockdown with eight locations set to shut down for good as its other 34 start reopening from April 12.
It said that some shops planned not to reopen are “in locations that can’t sustain a large store”. But it also “plans to create more places to shop John Lewis products across the UK”.
The eight shops identified for closure include four ‘At Home’ locations in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells, and four full department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.
Some 1,465 staff will be affected by this and the company is now entering into consultation with them. It said that “we will make every effort to find alternative roles in the Partnership for as many Partners as possible”. When it closed eight John Lewis stores last year, around a third of affected staff were found permanent roles elsewhere in the firm.
The company said the move comes as it “rebalances its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop” following a year in which they’ve accelerated what was already a fast shift to online channels for the department store chain.
John Lewis sees online as its key growth area and has already seen the channel move from 40% of its sales just a couple of years ago to between 60% and 70% now. It expects this trend to continue even after stores are allowed to reopen.
It said it has conducted “substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country”. As part of this, it can “unfortunately no longer profitably sustain a large John Lewis store in some locations where we do not have enough customers, which is resulting in the proposed closures”.
The eight shops were “financially challenged prior to the pandemic” and it doesn’t expect this to change post-pandemic.
That said, it stressed that its remaining department stores “remain critical to our future success. They provide a sensory experience that online cannot, supported by the expertise of our Partners.
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”.
Its research also showed that convenience is key for shoppers and it will be “improving the next-day Click & Collect service in Waitrose stores and offering more local collection points through third-parties”. It's trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in its Waitrose stores and by the autumn, Waitrose general merchandise products will be sourced by John Lewis.
It will also be testing new formats of “smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis”.
The company said it will support staff who are unable to find new roles in the business with advice and financial help for re-training. And it will also provide a £1 million Community Investment Fund to support local projects and to be shared among the eight local areas where it proposes to close shops.
Company chair Sharon White 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.”
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