John Lewis has confirmed plans to permanently close eight more outlets, including department stores in York, Peterborough, Sheffield and Aberdeen, with the potential loss of almost 1,500 jobs.
The company, which reported it first-ever full-year loss earlier this month, said it would also permanently close four “at home” stores, in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells. All stores are currently closed because of the government’s coronavirus high street lockdown but will not reopen when the rules change on 12 April.
The latest closures come after John Lewis permanently shut eight stores in 2020 amid a shift to online shopping, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Online trading now accounts for three-quarters of the department store’s sales.
The company said that department stores remained important to provide a “sensory experience” not available online. However, it said that cutting down on the number of stores would enable it to invest more in the 34 remaining outlets.
Sharon White, the chairman of John Lewis Partnership, the department stores’ parent group, said: “Today’s announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years.
“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it. Customers will still be able to get the trusted service that we are known for – however and wherever they want to shop.”
The company said it would make “every effort” to find new jobs for those affected, including at its Waitrose supermarkets business. Those who leave the company will have access to a £3,000 retraining fund and payments of two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age. Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive one week’s contractual pay.
The company will also be outsourcing its Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland to the logistics firm XPO, affecting 436 staff. Those workers will no longer be “partners” with access to the group’s annual bonus but be transferred to XPO this summer.
The company said Leyland remained and important part of its operation but “remains significantly underused”.