John Lewis should “adapt or die”, chair Sharon White says

John Lewis Partnership Sharon White
John Lewis chair Sharon White calls on the Chancellor to ditch the business rates system
// John Lewis calls on Chancellor to scrap business rates system
// Chair Sharon White said the main purpose of John Lewis is ensuring its own survival
// She has asked to replace the business rates system with a new land tax

John Lewis chair Sharon White has reportedly called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ditch the business rates system to help level up the retail playing field.

She has asked to replace the system with a new land tax to allow high street retailers to compete more fairly with online competitors.

White said that radical reform is required to provide a “much more stable and enduring way to tax” with bricks-and-mortar retail, The Telegraph reported.


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She added that the main purpose of John Lewis is ensuring its own survival.

“As we get the shot in the arm from the vaccine and the economy takes off we can’t lost sight of adapt, adapt, adapt. Those retailers who adapt survive and those who don’t will die,” she said.

White warned Sunak that reforms to how businesses are taxed must allow retailers of all types to adapt to new patterns of consumer spending.

She also dismissed calls for an online sales tax.

White announced the closure of eight John Lewis stores last July, and another eight this March, leaving it with 34 stores nationwide.

John Lewis has cut the number of shops from 51 to 34 since the pandemic began, putting almost 3000 jobs at risk.

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

John Lewis Partnership said at the time that the eight shops were financially challenged prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it did not believe their respective trading performances could be improved.

“We had doubled the number of stores from 2008,” White said.

“The decisions we have taken have basically taken us back to where we were in 2012. So we have fewer, but now your stores have got to be extraordinary and they have got to be destinations”

In April, John Lewis department store boss Pippa Wicks said the business will not close any more shops and defended its strategy.

Wicks said John Lewis does not have any more “proposed closures” as it “would not be appropriate for customers or partners”.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with her over the reform of the Business Rates. Clearly unfair to continue to tax retail on 1991 retail levels of trade when many places have declined economically over this time and pre internet competition and also out of town in many areas.

    Needs reforming urgently if more jobs are to be lost and more names.
    Department stores should be called an endangered species.

    Still do not agree with JL shutting stores like Ashford, Aberdeen, York or even Sheffield and Peterborough which were a big mistake.

    Far too much of a trek to visit their remaining stores. Short termism I feel that will cost them custom. I won’t go that far per se unless I really have too. Case of shooting themselves in the foot and I like to see before I buy. There’s a market there for a new retailer who wants to come in for those of us that cannot stand Curry’s and don’t like online.

  2. Jlp lost their way some time ago. They need to face the facts. Their staff became more arrogant and less helpful. Their stock control became appalling. Their displays were messy. Its no good having trendy new ideas but getting the basics of good retailing completely wrong. I’ve lost count of the number of friends who gave up shopping at JLP because of all of the above plus poor delivery service and dismissive/inadequate complaints dept. Its Not Covid fault, its not the rates fault – it’s simply management taking their eye off the ball and making the experience of shopping there light years away from previous decades. And their online ads are terrible… All very twee/graphic/trendy – but nothing tempts me to buy, nothing sucks the customer in.
    It’s management’s fault…. Go back to basic retailing concepts.

  3. Can I suggest that to make their stores “extraordinary” they scrap all the women’s fashion concessions that sell exactly the same items as those same stores that are on the high street around the corner, they take up a lot of space and reduce the differentiation. If I want to go to Mint Velvet or whatever I can go to their own shop, use the space for more distinctive items.

  4. It Never ceases to amaze me at the number of John Lewis Customers who are so entitled and arrogant, even in the news of JL closing 8 stores, all the comments are about how it is the wrong decision to make and that there is no way that their precious John lewis should be closing. However, lets face the real facts, these stores are closing because the very virtue-signalling two-faced people who leave these comments are the same people who simply stopped shopping there.

    This is the very epitome of entitlement and is exactly what is wrong with most JL Customers. They want the convenience but not the price, they want the service but not the hassle, they want the returns policy but not the pushback.

    Sometimes I just can’t understand how some of these mouth-breathers reason with themselves or their two-faced irrational, condescending diatribe.

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