// John Lewis confirms that 8 of its stores will not reopen and will shut down permanently
// The closures, which includes the Watford and Birmingham stores, places 1300 jobs at risk
// At the same time, John Lewis confirms the final wave of 9 store reopenings in lockdown exit strategy
Around 1300 jobs are at risk of redundancy as the John Lewis Partnership announced it will permanently shut down eight John Lewis stores that have not yet reopened post-lockdown.
The partnership has started a consultation process with affected staff, and the decision to not reopen these stores forms part of the retail giant’s ongoing business strategy review.
Alongside these store closures, the John Lewis Partnership also announced final wave of John Lewis store reopenings.
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Nine John Lewis shops in Aberdeen, Ashford, Brent Cross, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield and White City Westfield will reopen on July 30.
The department store’s Leicester branch will also reopen once the local lockdown for the city comes to the end, taking the total number of reopened John Lewis shops to 42.
The Swindon outlet will also reopen on July 30.
The partnership said the eight John Lewis stores earmarked for closure include the small 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.
John Lewis Partnership said that if redundancies among the 1300 or staff at risk are confirmed, “every effort would be made to find new roles where possible” for staff who wish to remain with the company.
These new roles could include being transferred to a local Waitrose store or working for the online arms of John Lewis and Waitrose.
The news comes just a week after John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White informed staff that the job cuts and store closures were imminent and would form part of a post-lockdown cost-cutting drive.
John Lewis Partnership said the eight shops set for closure were already financially challenged before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the UK in March, especially since the lockdown that followed accelerated the consumer behaviour shift from shopping in-store to online.
It added that before the pandemic, 40 per cent of John Lewis sales were online and this could now be between 60 per cent to 70 per cent of total sales this year and next.
As a result, the company said it would “continue to invest heavily” in John Lewis and Waitrose’s ecommerce capabilities to reflect this shift.
“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners,” White said.
“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.
“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.”
The John Lewis Partnership has also pledged to provide support to the affected 1300 staff through a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any staff with two years’ service or more.
All staff would be given access to a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.
In addition to statutory redundancy payments, the affected staff who have worked with the partnership for more than a year would be entitled to a redundancy pay package from the company.
Meanwhile those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay.