UK’s John Lewis to Close Eight Stores With Possible Loss of 1,300 Jobs

UK’s John Lewis to Close Eight Stores With Possible Loss of 1,300 Jobs
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the front entrance of John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in central London on the afternoon of March 21, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

LONDON—British department store chain John Lewis is to close eight stores with a possible loss of 1,300 jobs after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the switch from in–store shopping to online.

John Lewis said it would continue to invest heavily in e-commerce as online sales look set to represent around 60 to 70 percent of total sales this year and next, compared with 40 percent prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

The department store said the eight shops had already struggled financially prior to the lockdown. They include two major stores in Watford and Birmingham, the latter opening as a flagship shop in the Grand Central station development.

The other stores to close include two small hubs at Heathrow Airport and St Pancras railway station, and four At Home shops.

“We believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership—and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop,” said Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

“Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many Partners as possible within our business,” she said.

Retailers have been hammered by the lockdown and data shows that shoppers remain wary of entering stores even as the restrictions ease, with footfall down 50 percent year on year during the third week of reopening in England and Northern Ireland.