Uncertainty about future ends as 30 July start date announced
Concerns that the large John Lewis store in the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush have ended after the partnership confirmed a reopening date.
There had been fears that, after a leaking of an email from the CEO saying store closures would be required and given no indication when the Westfield outlet would return, it was at risk. In the event it was not on the list of the eight branches across the country which are to be closed permanently.
Sources suggest that negotiations between the store and the landlord were robust as the branch which opened in 2018 had not met initial trading expectations.
The store opened just over two years ago costing £33 million as the anchor tenant for the Westfield extension. It covers 230,000 sq ft and includes a beauty spa, three places to eat and a personal fashion styling service. Unconfirmed reports suggest that trading at the store had been disappointing with takings barely covering salary costs.
The Westfield reopening was confirmed along with eight other shops including the one at Brent Cross. That means that dates have been announced for the return of all their stores across the UK except Leicester where reopening has been postponed due to lockdown. The small branch in Heathrow is closing as well as the one in St Pancras station. The closures will put 1,300 jobs at risk although the partnership says they will make every effort to find roles within the organisation for existing staff.
Before the virus struck, 40 percent of John Lewis sales were online. This could now be closer to 60 to 70 percent of total sales this year and next.
Both John Lewis and Waitrose will continue to invest heavily in ecommerce to reflect this shift. Waitrose has already doubled its online capacity since the beginning of the pandemic. This will grow further, with a third online fulfilment centre in Greenford opening in partnership with logistics company Wincanton, and the continuing expansion of Waitrose Rapid, which allows shoppers to order and receive essential items within two hours. Further investment in johnlewis.com is also planned.
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.
“There are many reasons to be optimistic about the Partnership’s future. Waitrose and John Lewis are two of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands and we have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by responding to the new needs of customers. We will soon announce the output of our strategic review which will ensure our brands stay relevant for future generations of customers.”
July 9, 2020