// John Lewis is considering an outside investor to finance a joint venture
// Some department stores may never reopen after coronavirus lockdown
John Lewis Partnership is reportedly considering an outside investor to help to finance and launch a joint venture that would reduce its reliance on retailing.
It is also mulling the possibility of never reopening some of its less profitable department stores once the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
The group’s chairwoman Dame Sharon White is behind these plans and hopes to introduce further strategic changes in response to the pandemic, The Times reported.
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All 50 John Lewis stores have been closed since March 23, while its Waitrose grocery stores continue to trade.
White is considering drafting in an outside investor to back a joint venture focused on services rather than retail.
However, any plan to raise capital by inviting an investor to buy a stake directly in the group is regarded as impractical because it is owned by a trust on behalf of employees.
If plans were to go ahead, it would dilute employees’ stake.
Moreover, White has already spoken of her intention to step up the partnership’s services business as physical store sales drop thanks to a shift in shopping habits to online.
The chairwoman is also exploring whether the partnership should keep all John Lewis stores open as part of plans to “right-size” the retailer’s store estate.
The company also is reviewing whether it can shrink space by handing back a floor in some of its larger stores to landlords.
Last week, John Lewis handed an almost £1 million payout to its former managing director Paula Nickolds.
The retailer revealed that it paid out £939,773 to Nickolds, who exited in January following lacklustre Christmas sales.
The payout was in respect of her notice period, contributions to her legal fees and career development support.