Feb 22, 2021
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John Lewis could close more stores - report

Feb 22, 2021

John Lewis could be planning to close a number of regional department stores as the move towards online shopping continues to accelerate. The company hasn't commented, but a report at the weekend suggested that it's looking at the closure of up to eight of its remaining 42 departments stores.

John Lewis

The Sunday Times said that the final number of store closures hadn't been decided on and is subject to talks with landlords.

It also said that older, bigger stores could be at risk with suggestions that Liverpool, Cambridge, Southampton, Norwich, Nottingham, and Newcastle could be among those on the hit-list.

Confirmation of the plan could come next month. The stores are currently closed due to the UK lockdown but the new strategy means that they may never reopen, or if they do, it could be for a limited period of closing down clearance. 

Last year, the company took the big step of closing stores in Watford, Croydon, Swindon, Tamworth, Newbury, Heathrow, London St Pancras, and Birmingham. The last three of the stores has only opened in 2014 and 2015.

These closures mean the loss of around 1,300 jobs on top of the 1,500 head office roles that the company is also cutting. If eight more stores close, a similar number of jobs could be shed.

The company had been expanding its store portfolio for the John Lewis chain in recent years. But even before the pandemic, it had seemed likely that it would face a challenge at some point as it was one of the earliest retail names to ramp up its online offer very quickly. A combined strategy of expensive new stores and a rapid increase in its online operations seems illogical, with the benefit of hindsight.

Online sales at the John Lewis operation had already been running at around 40% of total retail sales pre-pandemic, but they’re now around 60% of the total and could reach 70% longer term.

A pre-Covid review of the portfolio under the company’s previous chairman reportedly found that up to 20 of its shops wouldn't be viable in the new world.

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