Thursday 9 July 2020 11:08 am

John Lewis closes eight stores putting 1,300 jobs at risk

John Lewis has announced that it will not reopen eight stores after the UK coronavirus lockdown, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk.

The company said this morning that the stores, which includes the department store at Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, had been struggling before the pandemic.

John Lewis will also close its department store in Watford and four At Home branches in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth. The travel hub shops at Heathrow Airport and St Pancras train station will also remain closed.

Around 1,300 employees will enter consultations over potential redundancies. The retailer said it will attempt to offer alternative jobs within the business, such as at Waitrose or online, to workers that are made redundant.

John Lewis said the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the switch from shopping in-store to online. Previously 40 per cent of John Lewis sales were online, which is now closer to 60 to 70 per cent of total sales this year and next, the retailer said.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sharon White 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.”

White, who joined the partnership in February, launched a strategic review of the company earlier this year.

Employees have already been told they are unlikely to receive a bonus next year as the department store chain struggles to improve profitability, according to the Evening Standard.

It is also planning to close its Partnership House office in Victoria Street as it seeks to capitalise on the flexible working boom sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer also today set out a timetable for reopening the rest of its stores. John Lewis stores in Aberdeen, Ashford, Brent Cross, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield, Swindon and White City Westfield will open on 30 July.

The Leicester store will reopen when the local lockdown in the city is lifted.