John Lewis Partnership boss warns on job cuts & store closures

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John Lewis Partnership boss warns on store closures & job cuts
The news comes on the same day the partnership announced the next phase of its lockdown exit strategy.
// John Lewis Partnership set to cut jobs, and permanently shut down some John Lewis stores
// It is also planning to axe the annual bonus next year and close down of its London HQ buildings
// Partnership chair Sharon White made the announcement in a letter seen by staff today

John Lewis Partnership is poised to cut jobs, axe the annual bonus, close one of its London headquarters and permanently shutter some stores in response to the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to staff seen by the Evening Standard, John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White told staff that the cuts were imminent and would form part of a post-lockdown cost-cutting drive.

The news comes on the same day the partnership announced the next phase of its lockdown exit strategy, which includes reopening 10 John Lewis stores – including the Oxford Street flagship as well as stores in Wales and Scotland for the first time.


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While the latest raft of reopenings will take the total so far to 32 since lockdown restrictions have eased for non-essential shops, White’s letter to staff confirmed that the future of the 18 remaining John Lewis stores remains uncertain.

Although John Lewis had said previously it would open more of its shops later in summer, White said there are plans to close a several unnamed shops and affected staff would be informed in mid-July.

She also said the partnership’s 8000 staff members across both John Lewis and Waitrose will likely have their annual bonus axed next year to help save on cash.

In addition, there are plans to close down one of its London offices in Victoria, from which 450 staff worked before the lockdown.

The other, larger Victoria office – which houses 2400 staff – will remain open.

White added that John Lewis Partnership had entered the coronavirus crisis with “weakening profits” and its cost-cutting was motivated by the “reasonable assumption” that online sales would make up almost three-quarters of John Lewis’ sales this year and next.

“The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now,” White wrote in her letter.

“As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores.

“Regrettably, it is likely that there will implications for some partners’ jobs. We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible.”

White said that despite government support via the furlough scheme and the one-year business rates freeze, along with better-than-expected trade during the pandemic, John Lewis Partnership expected “trading to be tougher in the second half of the year”.

“There is clearly a lot of uncertainty but as things stand, it is hard to see the circumstances where we will be able to pay a bonus next year,” she wrote.

“I know this will be a blow for partners who have made sacrifices these past months.”

She added: “The pandemic has led to profound shifts in the way we all live and shop, even our sense of self.

“While this coming period of transformation will sadly mean the end of some partnership stories, we have to change for the future of the partnership.

“We have to resize the business – facing into and not shying away from difficult decisions – and seize the opportunities to regrow. The prize is a sustainable partnership that is still thriving in 100 years.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The encouraging thing about these words is the direct way in which Sharon White is facing the forthcoming issues. She is clearly decisive and yet talks in terms of a 100 year future for the Partnership. This reflects her thinking in terms of a Vision.

    Of course, this will not help the poor souls who will lose their jobs. Sharon White can only make the cushion for them as soft as it can be.

    I would just urge Ms White not to view the department store as an anachronism to be cast aside in favour of online. I can assure her it will have a place in the future retail landscape….but it will be a case of revolution in format rather than evolution.

  2. Rumour has it that Trewins of Watford, Bainbridge of Newcastle as it was once called , Newbury and Birmingham stores are slated for closure.

    I do feel sorry for JL staff and all retail staff losing jobs but with COVID no one in their right mind will return to shopping in person. I will do it for food and if I am desperate for something but it’s not safe.

    Government needs to help retail really with busness rates and commercial lease.

  3. Wouldn’t be surprised if Leicester wasn’t being pencilled for closure too. It has never done that well the Place to Eat is really a place to avoid. Expensive car parking and a city that rally dislikes the motorist.

  4. The Partnership would do well to end the uncertainty of the future of those stores not yet open for trading. I accept that this may in some cases be due to negotiations with landlords, but this delay doesn’t show the decisive management needed in this “new normal”.

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