Confirmed: John Lewis shuts down 8 more stores; 1465 staff affected

Confirmed: John Lewis shuts down 8 more stores; 1465 staff affected
John Lewis Partnership had shut down eight other stores last year.
// John Lewis Partnership will not reopen 8 John Lewis stores when non-essential retail lockdown ends
// The move will affect 1465 staff and brings the John Lewis store count down to 34
// It’s part of a strategy to “rebalance” John Lewis’ portfolio & to open John Lewis shop-in-shops in Waitrose stores

The John Lewis Partnership has announced plans to not reopen eight John Lewis stores when lockdown on non-essential retail is lifted from next month.

Consultations with 1465 staff affected by the proposals have commenced and the partnership said it would “make every effort to find alternative roles” in the business for as many staff as possible.

The eight John Lewis stores identified for closure include four smaller At Home shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells plus four full-size department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.


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John Lewis Partnership said it undertook “substantial research” to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits, and part of this meant not being able to “profitably sustain” a large John Lewis store in some locations where it does not have enough customers.

The partnership added that the eight shops earmarked for closure were financially challenged prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it does not believe their respective trading performances could be improved.

The remaining 34 John Lewis stores 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.

Its ecommerce operations continues to trade as normal.

The latest round of store closures follow the closure of eight last year, a move that affected 1300 staff and brought the John Lewis store count down to 42 at the time.

An additional 1500 job cuts were then made at the John Lewis Partnership head office at the start of this year as part of a wider  turnaround plan to reach £400 million profit in five years.

It would achieve this through cost-cutting, downsizing and repurposing its store estate, and increasing investment to become a more digitally-focused retailer.

Last October it was confirmed that 45 per cent of the John Lewis flagship Oxford Street – which equates to floors three to eight – would be converted into dual use space.

More recently, the John Lewis Partnership revealed plans to open John Lewis shop-in-shops as well as improve the click-and-collect service across Waitrose’s 331 stores within the next 12 to 18 months.

The partnership also confirmed today that it would be “testing new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis”.

The retail giant added that it now expected between 60-70 per cent of John Lewis sales would be made online in the future.

It highlighted that nearly 50 per cent of its customers now use a combination of both in-store and online when making a purchase.

“Today’s announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years,” John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White said.

“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it.

“Customers will still be able to get the trusted service that we are known for – however and wherever they want to shop.”

John Lewis executive director Pippa Wicks said: “Closing stores is the toughest thing we do as a partnership because we all own our business.

“If the closures are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for partners and for us to continue to serve our customers by providing access to John Lewis in different ways.

“Alongside a growing online business and the expansion of next day click-and-collect, we will invest in our in-store services and experiences, as well as new, smaller neighbourhood formats and the introduction of John Lewis ranges in more Waitrose shops.”

The John Lewis Partnership first warned of another round of store closures earlier this month in its full year trading update, in which it posted a £517 million pre-tax loss – compared to profits of £146 million the previous year.

The firm attributed this to substantial exceptional costs of £648 million, mainly the write down in the value of John Lewis shops owing to the pronounced shift to online, as well as restructuring and redundancy costs from changes in head office and last year’s store closures.

On the partnership’s balance sheet, John Lewis shops are now at almost half the value they were before this year’s and last year’s write downs.

However, when taking exceptionals out of the equation, John Lewis Partnership recorded a full-year profit of £131 million – up from £70 million last year.

Meanwhile, John Lewis Partnership’s overall trading operating profit declined to £1.69 billion from £1.79 billion last year.

On its own, John Lewis’ trading operating profit declined from £734 million to £554 million.

The partnership said it was “significantly challenged” as the improvement seen in Waitrose, helped by its status as an “essential” retailer and being allowed to remain open during lockdown, was insufficient to cover the substantial decline in John Lewis which had endured restrictions.

Overall, John Lewis Partnership’s full year sales increased five per cent year year-on-year to £12.32 billion and revenue increased six per cent year-on-year to £10.77 billion. These figures were boosted by a surge in ecommerce growth in both its fascias.

However, overall sales for John Lewis on its own dropped two per cent year-on-year to £4.72 billion.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Sad news for The Partnership. Thankfully it retains its Online business, however they need to ensure that it remains profitable as it is an expensive operation to run.

  2. The cull continues. Any retailer worth their salt can trade successfully in locations like
    York, Sheffield , Aberdeen and Chester. How can a JLP spokesperson state ” probably have to close in locations where our customers aren’t” This decision shows a complete lack of awareness of the demographics of the areas in which these store are located.
    Clearly at senior level there is no understanding of how to successfully run large multi-floor stores. How sad to see Peterborough going the way of Birmingham.

    • I agree with you as with Ashford. It’s too far for many and they are assuming people will use them online. If you want to try clothing and or look at goods I’m not doing a 3 hour journey to Bluewater when Ashford was 1.5 hours tops. They will lose people the same with Aberdeen which is soon to be left without a department store like Sheffield, Aberdeen as well.

      Very sad.

    • Well all these stores have been losing money pre-pandemic and for some time, so your logic doesn’t really ring true. In reality, people have stopped shopping locally and have stopped buying from Department Stores – this has led to the demise of nearly all of the multiples. John Lewis is still existing mainly because it is being propped up by its Online operations – so, at some point it becomes a necessity to close loss making stores, no matter how impolite or difficult that may be. It’s tragic news, but people sometimes need to understand the real commercial side of these decisions.

      The people to blame are the so called ‘local neighbourhoods’ that have clearly stopped shopping in these stores – crying wolf just doesn’t wash.

  3. At Home stores were always a disappointment for existing JL customers because of the lack of Fashion. Now that Arcadia, Debenhams and other fashion outlets are closing down JL should re-purpose Home stores and simply change the merchandise mix.

  4. I’m very disappointed the Ashford store went. It was good and busy and well used by people visiting from France. Tunbridge Wells the lease was up and it’s much nearer to Bluewater.

    Won’t be ordering online from them. Too many store closures now and with Ashford Shutting I will limit visits to either Bluewater a few times a year or London branches or Nottingham. They risk being under represented. York too is a mistake, as is Aberdeen. It’s really far from other areas served by them in Scotland. Sheffield paid for the store and gave them money.

    Hope Sheffield council get that money back. Sad day for department store retailing.

    • All these stores were unprofitable and under utilised by their local communities. Should they be kept open at further loss and expect the rest of the business to foot the bill?

  5. Under the cover of pandemic : ruthless closures and cuts. Many consumers post Spring will eagerly seek out new homewares etc but with Debs & JL gone they will visit smaller booming shops like Range, Dunhelm or PCworld Currys. Over 30s want to visit places especially retirees and baby boomers stuffed with money. Range and Coffee bars bursting but John Lewis no way. Are they like M&S not appealing to all. Many do not want to just sit home & buy on mobile or laptop.

    • Agreed, but not enough people who do want to visit these stores – did! So they had to be closed, people never put their money where their mouth is. Its so frustrating.

  6. I’m afraid the days of department stores for most towns and cities are over. After this latest round of closures this will leave the national picture here in Scotland with just 5 department stores. John Lewis accounts for 2 of these in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Frasers in Glasgow, Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh and the outlier of Barbours in Dumfries. Jenners is of course due to close in May. Whilst the department store format will continue it won’t be as numerous as in previous years. I can only anticipate a similar reduction in other shops such as the older Marks & Spencer clothing/food. The reality is businesses that are viable no longer require lots of locations to reach their customers.

  7. Too many ‘Partners’ are disinterested in sales. I’ve personally experienced poor Customer Service in JL all too often, on big ticket items too… being told to look online, being handed brochures and suggested I “think about it”, Partners going for their lunch mid enquiry and just a general disinterest in closing sales. There is business available in these retail locations. JL just don’t do enough to secure it. It’s a cultural problem from top to bottom. It’s not solely the Senior team’s fault nor is it just the floor teams. I fear for the future of this business, unless it re-steers and rapidly as it’s a big old boat to manoeuvre!

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