LONDON (Reuters) – The John Lewis Partnership will permanently close eight more stores, jeopardising 1,465 jobs, as it reshapes its business for the digital age, the employee-owned British retailer said on Wednesday.
Multiple COVID-19 lockdowns have heaped pressure on store-based groups already struggling with tight margins and intense competition from purely online players.
The 156-year-old group said the shops, including department stores in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, Sheffield and York in northern England, and Peterborough in central England, would not reopen when the current lockdown ends.
It had warned earlier this month more closures were likely after the “economic earthquake” of the pandemic sent it to a 517 million pound ($709 million) annual loss.
“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it,” said Chairman Sharon White, noting that the group expected 60% to 70% of John Lewis’s sales to be made online in the future. It was 40% before the crisis.
The four department stores, along with four smaller ‘At Home’ stores in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells, were “financially challenged” prior to the pandemic.
Britain’s department store sector has been hammered in recent years. BHS went bust in 2016; House of Fraser was bought out of administration in 2018 by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, Beales collapsed in 2020 and Debenhams is being liquidated.
John Lewis closed eight stores last July, affecting 1,300 jobs.
The partnership’s remaining 34 John Lewis shops will reopen from April 12 subject to government guidance – with the exception of Glasgow, which will reopen from April 26, and Edinburgh, which will reopen on May 14.
The partnership also owns upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose.
It plans to improve a next day Click & Collect service for John Lewis products in Waitrose stores and offer more collection points through third parties. It is also trialling John Lewis shopping areas in Waitrose stores.($1 = 0.7293 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton and Keith Weir)