John Lewis warns of store closures

Partnership's new chair Sharon White says some stores may have to be cut amidst “most challenging period” in its near 100-year history

Written by Rhys Thomas

Posted 10.02.2020 | Retail

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Sharon White, the newly appointed and first-ever woman to chair the John Lewis Partnership, has warned that closures could be coming to the 50-strong John Lewis estate.

The partnership, which also operates around 340 Waitrose supermarkets, is facing “difficult decisions about stores and about jobs”, she said, and would potentially offload underperforming locations to improve the group’s finances.

She described the partnership’s current situation as the “most challenging period” the retailer has faced since its founding nearly 100 years ago, according to the Guardian.

Last year John Lewis had its first-ever unprofitable half-year, with pre-tax losses of more than £25m in the six months to the end of July, compared with £800,000 profit for the same period in 2018. A dozen unprofitable Waitrose stores were closed and more than 1000 jobs were cut.

Sharon also revealed that the partnership’s fortunes remained largely unchanged, with disappointing trading results not raising the money it needs to invest in reinvigorating the business.

The news follows a trending downturn in department stores. Rival retailers Debenhams and House of Fraser have already undergone emergency restructuring to stay afloat, while smaller chains such as Beales have entered administration.

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