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John Lewis set to axe stores and jobs

Department store chain John Lewis is reportedly set to cut jobs in a bid to reduce its costs.

In a memo first seen by the Evening Standard, chairman Sharon White told 80,000 employees that it was “highly unlikely” the group would reopen all of its John Lewis stores.

In addition to this, the letter mentioned the possibility of stopping the company’s iconic staff bonus next year. White also told staff that the group was “rethinking” its head office space, and will now close one of its two large offices in Victoria. 

According to the letter seen by the Evening Standard, White said: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores.

“Regrettably, it is likely that there will be implications for some Partners’ jobs. We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible.”

She added: “The pandemic has led to profound shifts in the way we all live and shop, even our sense of self. While this coming period of transformation will sadly mean the end of some partnership stories, we have to change for the future of the partnership. 

“We have to resize the business – facing into and not shying away from difficult decisions – and seize the opportunities to regrow. The prize is a sustainable partnership that is still thriving in 100 years.”

It comes after the John Lewis Partnership saw profits plummet by 23% to £123m for the year ended 25 January 2020, resulting in the lowest staff bonus seen in 67 years at only 2%.

The group said the performance was “weaker” than it had hoped for, driven by “significantly reduced profitability” in John Lewis. Despite a “solid” performance in Waitrose, it is the third year of declining profit across the John Lewis Partnership as a whole.

It added that during the year, it saw a one-off reduction in the value of John Lewis shops of £123m, principally as a result of stores “playing less of a role” in driving online purchases.

A John Lewis spokesperson told Retail Sector: “The reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now and we have shared this with our Partners. As difficult as it is, it is highly unlikely we will reopen all our John Lewis stores. However no decision has been made and any details would be shared with Partners first by the middle of July.”

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