John Lewis, one of the UK’s most well-known department store chains, is facing the possibility of closing several of its regional stores as the trend of online shopping continues to gain traction. Although no official statement has been made by the company, a recent report suggests that it is considering shutting down as many as eight out of its remaining 42 stores. The final number of closures is yet to be determined and will depend on negotiations with landlords. The potential casualties include larger, older stores in cities such as Liverpool, Cambridge, Southampton, Norwich, Nottingham, and Newcastle.

The confirmation of these store closures could come as early as next month. Due to the current lockdown measures in the UK, the stores are currently closed to the public. However, if John Lewis decides to implement its new strategy, these stores may never reopen, or they may only open temporarily for clearance sales.

In 2020, John Lewis took the significant step of closing several stores, including those in Watford, Croydon, Swindon, Tamworth, Newbury, Heathrow, London St Pancras, and Birmingham. Some of these stores had only recently opened in 2014 and 2015. As a result of these closures, approximately 1,300 jobs were lost, in addition to the 1,500 head office roles that were also cut. If another eight stores were to close, a similar number of jobs could be at risk.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, John Lewis was facing challenges due to its early and rapid expansion into online retail. While the company had been opening expensive new stores, its online sales were already accounting for a significant portion of its total retail sales. Before the pandemic, online sales constituted around 40% of John Lewis’ retail sales, but this figure has since risen to around 60% and has the potential to reach 70% in the long term. A pre-COVID review conducted by the company’s previous chairman revealed that up to 20 of its stores may no longer be viable in the changing retail landscape.

The potential closure of these regional stores reflects the broader trend in the retail industry, with consumers increasingly turning to online shopping. Retailers are now forced to reevaluate the sustainability of maintaining physical stores as e-commerce takes precedence. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this shift, pushing companies like John Lewis to reexamine their business models and make tough decisions about their store portfolios. The possible closure of John Lewis stores has significant implications for one of the UK’s most renowned and longstanding retailers, highlighting the changing landscape of the industry.

Useful links:
1. John Lewis Store Locator
2. Official John Lewis Website