// John Lewis given permission by Westminster City Council to turn some of its London flagship floors into office space
// John Lewis plans to convert floors three to eight of its Oxford Street branch into dual use space
John Lewis has been given the green light to convert almost half of its London flagship store on Oxford Street into office space, as it scurries to return the business to profitability.
The department store has had a presence in the capital since 1864, and was granted permission by Westminster City Council after drawing up plans for the site.
The council’s planning sub-committee voted unanimously “on the basis of exceptional circumstances to justify the loss of retail floorspace”.
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John Lewis could now turn 45 per cent – which equates to floors three to eight of its Oxford Street branch into dual use space.
These floors currently host kitchen and bathroom products, electrical goods and children’s toys and books.
The changes would leave retail covering most of the basement, ground, first and second floors.
Flexibility to use its footprint for retail or offices gives the company the “opportunity to invest in the retail store for its long-term future”, the council said.
It said offices could bring a new customer base for John Lewis.
A new office entrance was also proposed on the corner of Holles Street and Cavendish Square.
Last week, planning permission was granted to fellow department store chain Debenhams to partially turn the fourth and fifth floors of its London flagship into offices.
The conversion is part of John Lewis’ turnaround plans to return the business to profitability, particularly after swinging to a half-year loss and axing staff bonuses for this financial year.
For the interim period ending July 25, the parent company of John Lewis and Waitrose made a pre-tax loss of £635 million – a dramatic plunge compared to the £192 half-year profit it recorded this time last year.
However, on an EBIDTA basis, it made a loss of £55 million – a similar figure to what it recorded in the half-year period last year.
At the time, John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said the business applied for planning permission to transform up to three floors of the Oxford Street store into office space for rent.
While no indication of the plans were revealed in its interim results, White has previously said she would look at downsizing stores as part of plans to reshape the business for the future.
She also expressed interest in transforming some of the partnership’s stores into housing for rent.