John Lewis, a well-known UK department store, recently announced the permanent closure of eight of its locations. This decision is part of the company’s efforts to secure its long-term future and adapt to changing customer shopping habits. The stores that will be closing include two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford, as well as smaller travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras. Additionally, four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon, and Tamworth will also be closing down.

The closure of these stores comes as no surprise, as they were already facing financial challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The crisis has only accelerated the shift from in-store shopping to online shopping, and John Lewis expects online sales to account for a larger percentage of total sales this year and next. Previously, 40% of their sales were made online, but this number could increase to 60-70% due to changing consumer behavior.

To adapt to this shift, both John Lewis and its sister company Waitrose plan to heavily invest in e-commerce. However, the company still believes that its physical stores have an important role to play within the business. They are currently working on plans to ensure that the stores meet the evolving needs of customers alongside the growing online presence of the company. More details about these plans will be revealed later this month as part of a major strategic review.

Unfortunately, the closure of these eight stores will result in redundancies for approximately 1,300 staff members. The company has made a commitment to making every effort to find new roles for affected employees within the John Lewis Partnership. This may include transferring them to local Waitrose shops or offering them positions in the company’s webstores. Additionally, John Lewis has established a Retraining Fund to support its employees, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognized qualification or course for partners with two years’ service or more.

Sharon White, the Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, understands that closing a shop is a difficult decision and expresses sadness over the news for both customers and partners (employees). However, she emphasizes that these closures are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the business and to meet the changing needs of customers. White is also optimistic about the future of the partnership, highlighting the strength of the Waitrose and John Lewis brands and their ability to adapt to the challenges brought by the pandemic.

In conclusion, John Lewis is making strategic decisions to permanently close eight stores in order to secure its future and respond to the growing popularity of e-commerce. The company recognizes the importance of its physical stores while also acknowledging the increasing trend of online shopping. Unfortunately, these closures will result in redundancies, but John Lewis is committed to supporting its employees through alternative job opportunities and a Retraining Fund. The strategic review, which will be announced later this month, will provide more information about the company’s plans for the future. Despite the challenges, John Lewis remains optimistic about its ability to stay relevant to future generations of customers.

Useful Links:
1. John Lewis Official Website
2. Waitrose Official Website