John Lewis Partnership warns of job cuts and store closures

As John Lewis announced the next phase of its lockdown exit strategy, the Evening Standard broke the news that the retailer was planning job cuts, permanent store closures, the axing of next year’s annual bonus, and the closure of one of its London offices

Written by Georgie Dobie

Posted 03.07.2020 | Retail

John Lewis Partnership warns of job cuts and store closures thumbnail

It has been reported that John Lewis Partnership is considering a number of cost-saving measures to secure the future of the business. The retailer has been negatively impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus; while Waitrose stores have continued trading throughout lockdown, John Lewis stores had to temporarily close.

In a letter to staff seen by the Evening Standard, Sharon White, chair of John Lewis Partnership, said that job cuts were imminent, and that the company was also considering axing next year’s annual bonus, closing one of its London headquarters and permanently shuttering some stores in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

The news comes on the same day the partnership announced the next phase of its lockdown exit strategy, which includes reopening 10 John Lewis stores – including the Oxford Street flagship, as well as stores in Wales and Scotland for the first time. 

These reopenings will take the total so far to 32. But the future of the 18 remaining John Lewis stores remains uncertain, as confirmed in White’s letter to staff.  

John Lewis previously said that it planned to open more of its shops later in summer; however, White’s letter said there are plans to close several shops and affected staff would be informed in mid-July. 

In the letter, White also said that it was unlikely that the partnership’s 8000 staff members would receive an annual bonus next year. 

Furthermore, there are plans to close one of the retailer’s Victoria-based London offices, where 450 staff worked before the outbreak of Covid-19.  

The other Victoria office – where 2400 staff worked from prior to lockdown – will remain open. 

White said that the cost-cutting measures were motivated as a result of weakening profits, and the assumption that online sales would account for almost three-quarters of John Lewis’ sales this year and next. 

According to the report, Write wrote in her letter: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now.  

“As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores. 

“Regrettably, it is likely that there will implications for some partners’ jobs. We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible.” 

She added: “The pandemic has led to profound shifts in the way we all live and shop, even our sense of self. 

“We have to resize the business – facing into and not shying away from difficult decisions – and seize the opportunities to regrow. The prize is a sustainable partnership that is still thriving in 100 years.” 

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