Experts respond to John Lewis Partnership’s plans to cut 1000 jobs

The John Lewis Partnership unveils plans to make up to 1000 job cuts at its Waitrose and John Lewis stores in a bid to cut costs.
The layoffs come after some difficult years for the staff-owned retail giant, which employs over 80,000 people across both John Lewis and Waitrose.
// 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.


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“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.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. In response to Kevin Mountford, partners (the only people that matter) already know which jobs are going and from where, geographically. We are aware of the numbers involved in every single branch of JL and Waitrose. Plenty of transparency for those of us that need to know.

  2. Do I detect a certain prickly tone from TP? Clearly this is a member of the JLP management unable to identify themselves with a public announcement. The sad fact is that due to a lack of
    real retail expertise at the very top, JLP is in a mess. It almost looks like the business is being run into the ground. “Transparency” in this case will only lead to more demotivated partners.

  3. The number of people who need to go and where from is very very clear to all
    partners. They’ve done a good job at communicating that to be fair. The thing that those Managers who may remain in the business after the restructure are worried about the most is that the average number is Partners that a Manager will need to manage in the new structure increases MASSIVELY from an average of 8-12 to a maximum of 28-35. Imagine going from managing 8 people to managing 35 people.

    The further problem that externally nobody realises or understands about JLP is that 80% of Partners in the business have some reason why they can’t work as the business needs them to – generally won’t work the hours required, won’t turn up on time and at least half of the Partners who work there on a annual basis do not work the full year because they manipulate a take advantage of the generous terms for sick leave etc.

    Honestly if the JLP sickness statistics were shared and compared to any other Retailer – I would be a complete embarrassment.

    Most Managers will be leaving the business through this process not because they’re not good enough for the new job, just because who on earth wants to be responsible for managing up to 35 people (most of who have complex needs or just simply think they don’t have to follow standard rules).

    Senior Management is appalling and even worse, in times of Crisis the business is now ran by someone who has never worked a day in a Retailer in their lives and is essentially a Politician who knows nothing about the business.

    I mean in times of crisis for a Retailer, who on earth decides that they’re going to open a new arm of the Retailer that builds houses!! Like seriously, it would be a joke if it wasn’t true. JLP trying to become Barrett Homes. It’s all so shocking.

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