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John Lewis Partnership plans not to reopen eight John Lewis shops from lockdown as it rebalances store estate

Published: 24 March 2021 - Neil Mead

The John Lewis Partnership has today announced that it is not planning to reopen eight of its 42 John Lewis shops from lockdown, as it rebalances its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop. The Partnership also confirmed plans to transfer the running of its Waitrose Distribution Centre in Leyland to XPO Logistics.

 

Its remaining 34 John Lewis shops will reopen from 12 April subject to Government guidance - with the exception of Glasgow, which will reopen from 26 April, and Edinburgh, which will reopen on 14 May.

The eight shops identified for closure include four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.

We will enter into consultation with the 1,465 affected Partners about our proposals. Should we proceed, we will make every effort to find alternative roles in the Partnership for as many Partners as possible. 

At the Partnership’s full year results earlier this month, we said that we will reshape our business in response to how our customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online.

This follows substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country. As part of this, we can unfortunately no longer profitably sustain a large John Lewis store in some locations where we do not have enough customers, which is resulting in the proposed closures. The eight shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic.

Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years - and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse - we do not think the performance of these eight stores can be substantially improved. We expect 60% to 70% of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future. Nearly 50% of our customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.

John Lewis in the future

Our department stores remain critical to our future success. They provide a sensory experience that online cannot, supported by the expertise of our Partners.

Having fewer bigger stores allows us to invest significantly to improve our remaining ones, showcasing our inspiring products with more space dedicated to experiences and services. They will be enticing and exciting places to shop, more reflective of the tastes and interests of local customers.

Our research tells us that customers want more convenient access to John Lewis so we’re improving the next day Click & Collect service in Waitrose stores and offering more local collection points through third parties. We’re trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores and by the autumn, Waitrose general merchandise products will be sourced by John Lewis.

We will also be testing new formats of smaller, local neighbourhood shops offering the best of John Lewis.

And our online customer experience will be strengthened on johnlewis.com and our app. We’ve already taken our Partners into customers’ homes this past year, using video calls to host more than 11,000 virtual appointments across home design, personal styling and nursery.

In areas where we propose not to reopen stores, we will look at the right combination of options for that location to ensure we remain convenient for our customers, so they can continue to access John Lewis products and services.

Support for partners and communities

If redundancies are confirmed in the eight shops, every effort will be made to find affected Partners new roles for those who wish to remain within the Partnership. When we closed eight John Lewis stores last year, around a third of affected Partners were found permanent roles in the Partnership. Opportunities include transferring to local Waitrose shops or working for johnlewis.com and waitrose.com as they continue to grow.

Partners who cannot or choose not to remain with the Partnership will also have access to a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any Partner with two years’ service or more. All Partners will have the option of a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.

In addition to statutory redundancy payments, Partners who have worked with the business for more than a year would be entitled to Partnership redundancy pay, which equates to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age. Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay. 

We will also provide a £1m Community Investment Fund, to support local projects and to be shared among the eight local areas where we propose to close shops.

Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Today's announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected Partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years.

“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it. Customers will still be able to get the trusted service that we are known for - however and wherever they want to shop.”

Pippa Wicks, Executive Director for John Lewis, said: “Closing stores is the toughest thing we do as a Partnership because we all own our business. If the closures are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for Partners and for us to continue to serve our customers by providing access to John Lewis in different ways.

“Alongside a growing online business and the expansion of next day Click & Collect, we will invest in our in-store services and experiences, as well as new, smaller neighbourhood formats and the introduction of John Lewis ranges in more Waitrose shops.”

John Lewis continues to trade as normal online and we will reopen our remaining stores in line with Government guidelines.

Changes to Waitrose Leyland distribution centre

The Partnership has also confirmed that we have reached an agreement with XPO Logistics to operate the Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland, Lancashire, on our behalf. Leyland remains key to our operations, however, the site remains significantly underused. We have been discussing potential solutions with our Partners since last summer. 

The decision safeguards Leyland’s future and secures employment for 436 Waitrose Partners working there who will transfer to XPO this summer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).

Andrew Murphy, Executive Director of Operations, said: “I am very grateful for the efforts of Partners in Leyland who have served the Partnership brilliantly. The agreement announced today secures employment at the site and I am confident that, under the stewardship of XPO Logistics, Leyland will go from strength to strength.”

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