John Lewis will begin to reopen its shops for customers as part of a gradual approach from Monday 15 June, starting with its Poole and Kingston department stores, followed by 11 others on Thursday 18 June. Depending on the response from customers and Partners to our new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the summer. The decision follows the Government’s guidance earlier this week on easing restrictions for non-essential retailers.
Learning from the social distancing measures the Partnership has taken in Waitrose shops, John Lewis plans initially to open just under a quarter of its shops as part of a steady, gradual approach with rigorous safety and social distancing measures in place. Branches selected to open have been chosen primarily because of their accessibility by car.
The business will undertake an on-going assessment of the effectiveness of each of the operational changes it implements during this initial phase of reopening, making adjustments as it goes to ensure the best and safest customer and Partner experience possible.
John Lewis temporarily closed its 50 department stores on 23 March for the first time in its 155-year history. However, johnlewis.com has continued to operate successfully, experiencing a significant uplift in sales.
Sharon White, Partner & Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The momentous events of the last few months have tested our resilience as a business, but our resourcefulness, innovation and the spirit of cooperation between Partners has really shone through.
“It’s been heartwarming to see John Lewis Partners stepping into different roles to support our Waitrose supermarkets and to keep johnlewis.com running and I’m proud of everything our Partners across both our brands have done to help us get to this point.
Our shops reopening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. There’s an opportunity, now, for us, to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.
“However, while we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and Partners.”
As John Lewis takes the first steps in reopening its doors for business, a raft of measures will be introduced into its shops drawing from the Partnership’s experience of applying and managing social distancing in its Waitrose supermarkets and from within the delivery and warehousing aspects of its e-commerce businesses. These include: The introduction of a ‘Customer Service Host’ assigned to welcome customers into the store and answer any questions while managing customer numbers, queues both at entrances and busy areas of the shop and explain to customers what changes they might see in store.
- Reducing the number of shop entrances.
- Caps on the number of customers entering stores.
- Prominent social distancing signage.
- Protective screens at checkouts and areas of the shop where 2 metre social distancing cannot be achieved between customers and Partners.
- Control procedures for escalators and lifts limiting the number of users.
- Rigorous and frequent cleaning.
- Provision of hand sanitiser for customers to use at all entrances.
- Social distancing in back of house areas.
- New contactless payment limit of £45.
- Limiting the number of additional customer services - for example close-contact beauty services will not be offered and customer catering outlets and fitting rooms will remain closed until further notice.
- Safe and simple returns process - for example inline with government guidance we are going to separate returned stock from new or old stock for 72 hours.
In addition, customers will be able to learn more about the measures we are taking in our branches via a short film, which will be hosted on johnlewis.com.
Depending on customer feedback and how the first phase of openings progress, other initiatives which may be considered include: virtual queueing, returns drop boxes and enabling Click & Collect from our branch carparks.
Branches opening in the first stage are; from Monday 15 June: Kingston and Poole and from Thursday 18 June; Bluewater, Cambridge, Cheadle, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, Horsham, Ipswich, Norwich, Nottingham, Solihull and Welwyn.
Prior to opening, each shop will undertake a four-week reopening preparation programme. This includes counting stock, replenishment, preparation of systems, merchandising, deep cleaning, the introduction of social distancing measures, Partner training and final pre-opening checks.