Coronavirus: John Lewis plans to axe 1,300 jobs as eight shops close

Department store chain John Lewis has said eight of its shops will not reopen from lockdown, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

The employee-owned business said the closures come after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the shift from in-store shopping to online.

The shops to close are: two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford; four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth; and two travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras.

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.

“However, 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.

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

John Lewis had previously warned that not all of its shops would reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown – which saw the chain shut all 50 of its stores before beginning a gradual reopening.

In a trading update in April, it said it had seen a strong rise in online demand but not enough to make up for store closures, while the balance of purchases – described as “more Scrabble and fewer sofas” – tended not to favour big-ticket items.

It said sales could slump by as much as 35% this year in a worst-case scenario.

The job cuts announcement is the latest in a slew of such decisions affecting thousands of workers across swathes of the economy – from BP and Airbus, to Pret A Manger and Royal Mail.

It comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a “plan for jobs” to help revive Britain’s battered economy, and a month after he used an interview with Sky News at a John Lewis department store to encourage shoppers to return to the high street after the lockdown.

John Lewis said the store closures would see “approximately 1,300 partners” across the eight shops enter into consultation.

It said if redundancies were confirmed, “every effort would be made to find new roles where possible” – which could include transferring to sister retailer Waitrose or to the John Lewis or Waitrose online operations.

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