John Lewis to Close More Stores With Almost 1,500 Jobs At Risk

John Lewis Partnership won’t reopen eight of its 42 remaining stores when England’s lockdown ends after the pandemic forced the retailer to reshape its business.

The move, which could affect almost 1,500 jobs, is needed to “rebalance the store estate to reflect how customers want to shop,” John Lewis said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Outlets being shut include four department stores in Peterborough, Sheffield, York and Aberdeen, Scotland; and four smaller “At Home” shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells.

The retailer earlier this month reported its first-ever annual loss after being forced to halve the value of John Lewis stores as lockdowns accelerated a shift to e-commerce. The employee-owned partnership, which also owns the upmarket grocer Waitrose, outlined plans then to close more stores after already cutting the number of John Lewis outlets to 42 from 50.

Long known as the reliable choice for middle-class Britons, John Lewis has been undergoing a wrenching turnaround under Chairman Sharon White. The former telecommunications regulator, who joined the partnership last year, aims to cut annual costs by 300 million pounds ($412 million) and return the company to profit by 2025. Her strategy involves investing in the digital business and pursuing new revenue streams, such as expanding further into financial services and converting excess space into private rented housing.

White had already decided to cut as many as 1,500 jobs at the partnership’s head office and canceled annual bonuses for the first time in more than 70 years. Altogether, about 4,340 jobs, or 5.5% of the staff, are at risk due to restructuring moves.

On Wednesday, White said substantial research showed the retailer could no longer profitably sustain large John Lewis stores in some locations where there weren’t enough customers. The stores, some of which only opened in the past decade, were already under financial stress before Covid, she said.

White plans to use savings from the closures to invest in improvements to remaining department stores, to increase click-and-collect access points and in-store concessions in Waitrose outlets, and to trial a number of smaller neighborhood stores.

“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation, and we are changing with it,” White said in the statement.

All non-essential retailers, including department stores, are due to reopen in England on April 12. In Scotland, some outlets such as garden centers can open on April 5, with the rest on April 26.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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