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Not all John Lewis stores will re-open after lockdown

Written by: Emma Lunn
The retail stalwart has warned of more store closures, with the group in discussions with landlords about the future of some shops.

In John Lewis’ full year results for 2020/21, the department store announced it had slumped to a £517m loss for 2020. It predicted more job losses and a knock-on effect on its supply chain.

Sharon White, John Lewis chairperson, said: “Hard as it is, there is no getting away from the fact that some areas can no longer profitably sustain a John Lewis store. Regrettably, we do not expect to reopen all our John Lewis shops at the end of lockdown, which will also have implications for our supply chain. We are currently in discussions with landlords and final decisions are expected by the end of March.

“Closing a store is one of the hardest decisions we can make as a partnership. We are acutely sensitive to the impact on our partners, customers and communities, particularly at a time when retail and our high streets are undergoing major structural change. We will do everything we can to lessen the impact and will continue to provide community funds to support local areas.”

White said the group had benefited from government business rates relief and furlough support worth £190m which had “helped to keep us running and avoid more severe restructuring”.

However, the group, which also owns Waitrose, confirmed it would not be paying a bonus to staff, referred to as ‘partners’, for the first time in 67 years.

John Lewis forecast its financial results for 2021 would be even worse, due to investment in its online shopping service and other measures in its turnaround plan.

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “This news is really worrying for John Lewis employees and is yet another blow for our struggling high streets.

“The pandemic has accelerated changes to the way we shop, but the government continuing to disadvantage bricks and mortar shops over online companies is cranking up the pressure and leading to businesses collapsing that may otherwise have had a bright future as our country recovers.

“Unless the government puts in place a proper long-term plan for our high streets, including real action to help level the playing field and to ease the weight of debt piling up on businesses, we will see more shops vanishing and our high streets hollowed out.”

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