// John Lewis Partnership yesterday announced plans to make up to 1000 job cuts at its Waitrose & John Lewis stores
// The business is proposing a reduction in the number of layers between the most senior leaders & non-management staff
// Experts respond to the latest restructure news, which part of the John Lewis Partnership’s five-year Partnership Plan
The John Lewis Partnership yesterday unveiled plans to make up to 1000 job cuts across its stores in a bid to simplify its management structures and cut costs.
It is believed that the partnership is seeking to reduce the number of layers between the most senior leaders and non-management personnel across its John Lewis and Waitrose stores, an approach which has been explored by a number of other retailers in recent years.
The proposals are part of the John Lewis Partnership’s wider Partnership Plan, the major turnaround scheme being spearheaded by partnership boss Dame Sharon White, which will see the business aim to reduce costs by £300 million per year by 2022.
If confirmed, the proposals would result in around 1000 roles being made redundant across John Lewis and Waitrose stores.
- John Lewis & Waitrose mulls 1000 job cuts
- John Lewis to allow flexible working for all head office staff
- John Lewis to build 10,000 homes above Waitrose stores
“We have announced to our [staff] our intention to simplify our management structures in Waitrose and John Lewis stores, which will allow us to reinvest in what matters most to our customers,” a John Lewis Partnership spokesperson said yesterday.
The layoffs come after some difficult years for the staff-owned retail giant, which employs over 80,000 people across both fascias. More than 2500 jobs have already been lost as a result of the closure of 16 John Lewis stores since the Covid-19 started, including locations in York, Peterborough, Sheffield, and Aberdeen.
The Partnership Plan also consisted of a head office transformation, operational restructuring, converting some retail space into office or residential rental space, and other efficiencies.
Kevin Mountford, co-founder of savings provider Raisin UK, said simplifying management structures didn’t mean 1000 people have to lose their jobs. He questioned if there were any other options for the John Lewis Partnership to save money elsewhere.
“John Lewis [Partnership needs] to be transparent,” he said.
“It needs to tell its employees as soon as possible which jobs are saved and which jobs are not. Being in the middle of a pandemic and having utmost uncertainty it’s far worse than anything else.
“With the shift from physical stores to online, again, retail shops need to learn how to adapt and focus on return-on-investment instead of closing stores, which leads to loss of jobs.”
Changes to shopping habits, lack of reform on business rates and enforced store closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic meant that John Lewis and other department stores were hit hard. The retailer’s main rivals House of Fraser and Debenhams are now reducing store numbers or now trading solely online, respectively.
Sean Moran, restructuring and insolvency partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said there was no denying that the pandemic was, and continues to be, a catalyst for drastically altering shopper habits and many flagship brands are reacting accordingly.
“The John Lewis Partnership’s decision to simplify management structures, focus on customer service and invest in its existing store portfolio is more evidence of this,” he said.
“Whilst this might be welcome relief for their finances, it’s unfortunate news for the individuals affected.
“While there’s been no mention of further store closures this time around, with a greater focus on ecommerce it’s clear this is something the Partnership presumably cannot rule out as they advance their shift from bricks-and-mortar retail to online.
“Despite the positive spin that this latest restructuring will allow ‘reinvestment for customers’, it is likely to mean the John Lewis Partnership now has a potentially tricky redundancy process on its hands.”
While the proposed store management changes announced by the group reflect similar cost-cutting moves taken by retailers including Tesco and Morrisons in recent years, this latest wave of store closures has led to 11,000 fewer people working in retail jobs in the year to the end of March, as reported by the ONS.”
The Retail Gazette has contacted shopworkers union Usdaw for comment.