The John Lewis Partnership announced today that it will permanently shutter eight doors — putting approximately 1,300 workers at risk of being laid off.
“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and [employees],” said Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership in a statement. “Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many [employees] as possible within our business.”
According to John Lewis, the eight shops identified had already been financially challenged prior to the coronavirus pandemic — but have been further battered by the acceleration in e-commerce. The company says 60% to 70% of its total sales this year and next are likely to be online — compared with around 40% before the pandemic. To reflect this shift, John Lewis and owned-brand Waitrose are investing more heavily in e-commerce — with Waitrose having already doubled its online capacity since the COVID-19 crisis began. The company has plans to open a third online fulfillment center in Greenford, U.K., as well as to continue to expand its two-order delivery service Waitrose Rapid.
John Lewis said it is putting “every effort” into find new roles for workers made redundant — including posts at Johnlewis.com or Waitrose.com as the sites continue to expand, or jobs in local Waitrose shops. In addition, the company said it will provide up to 3,000 pounds (about $3,800) to retraining courses for workers with two years’ service or more.
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Among the eight shops slated for closure are two large-format department stores, located in Birmingham and Watford. The company is also shuttering four at-home stores — specialist homeware stores ranging from about 40,000 to 60,000 square feet — as well as two small travel hubs, measuring under 4,000 square feet.
In the United Kingdom this year, lost sales are expected to total approximately to 17.28 billion pounds due to the impact of the virus and quarantine measures, according to the Centre for Retail Research. The Centre further projects that 20,622 stores will close across the regiom, compared with 16,073 in 2019, and that 235,704 people will lose their jobs, up from 143,128 last year.
As British retailers continue to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus, John Lewis is not the only company to make cuts. Fellow department store Harrods confirmed in July its plans to cut up to 14% of its workforce of roughly 4,800, putting 700 jobs on the line. Topshop parent Arcadia has also announced plans to reduce its corporate workforce of 2,500 by about 500. Meanwhile, several boldface British retailers, such as Oasis and Warehouse and Debenhams, have fallen into administration amid the pandemic.