John Lewis confirms closure plans and reveals Peterborough store was ‘challenged’ before pandemic

Bosses at John Lewis have confirmed the Peterborough store will not reopen after lockdown.

By Paul Grinnell
Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:22 pm

The department store chain says it has begun consultation with 318 affected Partners based in the Queensgate store about its proposals and are looking to find alternative roles in the business for as many as possible.

A spokesman said: “We appreciate that this news comes after completing a major refurbishment of the shop just over a year ago.

“We had believed that through investment in the shop, we could have played a key role in the future of the Queensgate Shopping Centre.

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John Lewis Queensgate after its £21 million revamp. EMN-191125-184936009

“The store was financially challenged before the pandemic.

“And the effects of three lockdowns and the acceleration of the switch to online shopping means we do not believe the store can become sustainable in the future.

John Lewis home delivery is still available to customers in Peterborough, offering named or next day delivery, standard 5-day delivery and next day Click & Collect.

“Within driving distance from the shop, customers can collect their John Lewis purchases from four Waitrose Click & Collect points, including Waitrose Peterborough, five Co-op Click & Collect points, and can shop with us at John Lewis Cambridge.”

Sabrina Murphy, Head of Branch for John Lewis Peterborough, said: “I recognise the news will come as a huge disappointment for many in the city, but especially our loyal customers, to whom we are very grateful.

“I want to thank Peterborough Partners for their incredible hard work and determination in the last 12 months as we closed and reopened our shop as a result of successive lockdowns.

“They will be fully supported throughout the consultation period.”

Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We are aware that this will be very difficult news for our Partners and our customers in Peterborough.#

“We are very grateful to our customers who have shopped with us over the years, as well as for the hard work and dedication of our Partners.

“We had hoped that the newly refurbished shop would be able to play a key role in the future of Peterborough city centre.

“However, the pandemic has had an irreversible impact on retail and we have had to make difficult decisions regarding our shops to ensure the Partnership has a sustainable future.

“If the proposal to close goes ahead, we have put together a carefully considered package of support to help our Peterborough Partners and would look to redeploy as many of them as possible.”

In a statement the retailer added: “As the Partnership’s full year results earlier this month we said that we will reshape our business in response to how our customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online.

“This follows substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country.

“As part of this, we believe we can unfortunately no longer profitably sustain the John Lewis shop in Peterborough.

“However, the research means we will also invest in providing more access to John Lewis through improving our Click & Collect service, as well as trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores.”

John Lewis has named eight shops for closure including four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Sheffield, York as well as Peterborough.

The company adds: “All of these shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic.

“Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years - and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse - we do not think the performance of these stores can be substantially improved.

“We expect 60 per cent to 70 per cent of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future.

“Nearly 50 per cent of our customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.

If redundancies are confirmed, every effort will be made to find affected Partners new roles. Partners who cannot or choose not to remain with the Partnership will also have access to a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any Partner with two years’ service or more.

All Partners will have the option of a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.

In addition to statutory redundancy payments, Partners who have worked with the business for more than a year would be entitled to Partnership redundancy pay, which equates to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age.

Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay.