Wednesday 16 September 2020 3:07 pm

John Lewis mulls cutting Oxford Street flagship store space by 40 per cent

John Lewis is reportedly preparing to slash the size of its flagship Oxford Street department store due to a steep drop in West End footfall during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The retailer has applied to Westminster council to allow it to reduce its trading space by up to 40 per cent, while the third, fourth and fifth floors earmarked for conversion into office space to rent out. 

Read more: DEBATE: Is the plan to revitalise John Lewis likely to be a success?

John Lewis would retain the basement, ground, first and second floors as retail space, with the sixth, seventh and eight floors would also be turned into offices. 

The high street retailer’s property adviser CBRE told the Evening Standard that the firm had been “considering options” for the building for “some time in light of the issues surrounding retailing, but in particular Oxford Street”.

“The challenges confronting retailers are more pronounced given the Covid-19 situation, but it is important to stress that JLP are not leaving Oxford Street, and see the flexibility of a dual/alternative use as providing them with the opportunity to invest in the retail store for its long-term future,” the adviser told the newspaper. 

Retail footfall in central London has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic, as office workers and both international and domestic tourists have not yet returned to the capital. 

City A.M. has contacted John Lewis and CBRE for comment. 

In July the struggling chain announced it would permanently close eight stores following the UK coronavirus lockdown, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk. 

John Lewis chairman Sharon White also announced that it would seek to transform some of its store estate into housing in a bid to strengthen its services business due to the impact of Covid-19 on the UK high street.

Read more: John Lewis may convert department stores into affordable housing

Other options under consideration are expanding its financial services arm, developing a horticulture business and a rental and recycling platform.

In an update on the progress of John Lewis’ strategic review White said “green shoots” should be seen within the next nine to 12 months, with profits recovering over the next three to five years.