Monday 27 April 2020 5:06 pm

John Lewis could permanently close some stores when coronavirus lockdown ends

John Lewis is reportedly considering permanently closing some department stores after the UK’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted.

All John Lewis department stores closed last month after the government ordered all non-essential retailers to shut during the coronavirus lockdown.

Read more: Full-year sales at John Lewis stores could fall 35 per cent

However, some of the less viable John Lewis stores could remain shut after the lockdown restrictions are lifted, as new boss Dame Sharon White seeks to cut costs, the Times reported. 

Former Ofcom boss White, who joined the retailer in February, is also reportedly considering inviting an outside investor to launch a joint venture focused on services rather than retail. 

She said last week that a strategic review of the partnership, announced before the coronavirus outbreak in the UK developed, will be accelerated to be completed by the end of the summer. 

White said: “It will seek to take account of changes in consumer behaviour to come out of the pandemic, such as a more pronounced shift to online and a desire to shop in more sustainable ways.”

John Lewis also warned last week that full-year sales could plummet 35 per cent if weak demand continues until the end of June. 

Sales at the department store chain are down 17 per cent year-on-year since the middle of March, and down seven per cent year-on-year since 26 January.

Read more: Coronavirus: John Lewis launches virtual services

The company has seen a surge in online demand, particularly in sales of items linked to working and living at home.

However, the jump in online trading has not been enough to offset the sharp decline in in-store revenue after all its department stores were forced to close last month.

John Lewis has already taken steps to preserve liquidity, including cutting back on marketing spend by close to £100m. It has furloughed more than 14,000 partners and is in the process of negotiating rent relief with landlords.