John Lewis is to permanently shut eight more stores in a move which is expected to put 1,465 jobs at risk.
The department store retailer told staff on Wednesday morning that it will not reopen the stores after lockdown measures lift, as it undergoes a major shift in strategy to adapt to changing shopping habits.
The eight shops set to close comprise four At Home stores in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester, and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield, and York.
It said its remaining 34 John Lewis shops in England will reopen from 12 April subject to Government guidance. Its Glasgow store will open on 26 April and Edinburgh on 14 May.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the retail sector continue to hit hard, and have sent the John Lewis Partnership group – which also owns grocery chain Waitrose – to its first ever annual loss since 1864.
The Partnership said on Wednesday that it will also transfer the operations of its Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland, Lancashire, to XPO Logistics. It said 436 Waitrose staff at the site will be transferred to XPO.
Another round of closures
The latest round of closures come only months after the retailer’s July 2020 announcement of the closure of an initial eight stores following the UK’s first lockdowns last year.
Department stores in Birmingham and Watford were affected by last year’s closures, along with four ‘At Home’ stores in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon, and Tamworth, and travel sites in Heathrow and St Pancras.
At the time, chairman Dame Sharon White told employees the group was “exploring” opportunities to turn its empty stores into private rented housing with third parties as it looks to “repurpose and potentially reduce” its shop portfolio.
Financial results will ‘get worse’
The John Lewis Partnership group has been among retailers to report a surge in online sales, but has continued to face a burden from its portfolio of large physical stores.
The group confirmed the previously announced move to scrap its staff bonus for the first time since 1953 after tumbling to a £157 million pre-tax loss for the year to 30 January against profits of £146 million the previous year.
The group said it wants to restart staff bonuses as soon as profits recover to at least £150 million on a sustainable basis, and hopes to be back to profit in 2022-23, with £200 million next year and £400 million by 2025-26.
The group has been helped by £190 million in Government emergency support, including business rates relief and furlough for workers, but said its results will get worse in the current financial year.
It is looking to invest £800 million in the business as part of an overhaul to turn around its fortunes, which will only partially be offset by annual cost savings of £300 million.
Last year, the company announced separate plans to axe around 1,500 head office jobs to help cut costs.
The move was intended to help the business save around £50 million as part of wider plans to reduce total costs by £300 million.