John Lewis staff in Peterborough face uncertain time as retailer warns of store closures

Hundreds of staff at retailer John Lewis in Peterborough face an anxious wait after bosses warned of store closures.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 9:36 am
Gary Roundtree, head of branch at John Lewis Peterborough. EMN-190521-125215009
Gary Roundtree, head of branch at John Lewis Peterborough. EMN-190521-125215009

The retailer has announced that it does not expect to open all its 42 stores after the current lockdown ends next month and is currently in talks with landlords about the future of some branches.

A final decision is expected at the end of the month but it means an uncertain time for the 390 staff the retailer employs at its huge store in the Queensgate shopping centre.

The warning is contained in John Lewis’ annual results for the 12 months to the end of January this year, which highlights the decline of sales in its stores while its online sales have grown.

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John Lewis staff celebrate their 17% bonus in 2013. ENGEMN00120130703094547

Chairman Dame Sharon White said: “Regrettably, we do not expect to reopen all our John Lewis shops at the end of lockdown.

“We are in discussions with landlords and final decisions are expected by the end of March.”

The retailer’s new figures show the John Lewis Partnership, which includes its John Lewis department stores and its Waitrose food stores, made a £517 million loss compared to a profit before tax of £146 million in the previous year.

It says has grown fourfold since February 2020, now taking around 240,000 orders a week, and stands as a £1 billion sales business.

Its business has grown by 73 per cent and this year represented three quarters of the brand’s sales - up from 40 per cent before the Covid-19 crisis.

Unveiling a £800 million five-year Partnership Plan, Dame Sharon says the retailer will look to reshape its offering with a focus on smaller stores in convenient locations, some destination stores, trialling John Lewis shopping areas in Waitrose stores and greater use of click and collect.

John Lewis has also confirmed it will not be paying its staff the traditional annual bonus, the amount of which has varied but eight years ago was 17 per cent.

Dame Sharon said: “We wish we were in a position to pay a bonus and it has been a very difficult decision not to.

“The Partnership Board believed that to do so would have held back our ability to protect the business in very difficult times.”

It had been reported that eight of John Lewis’ 42 stores were at risk of permanent closure but the retailer has not confirmed a number. However, it did close eight stores at the end of the first lockdown last year.

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow has already written to Dame Sharon urging her not to close its Peterborough store.

He states: “Although I understand why John Lewis & Partners is seeking to reduce floorspace nationally to accommodate post-virus trading conditions, this closure would make no sense.

“The John Lewis store is the anchor of Queensgate shopping centre, at the heart of Peterborough’s city centre; a role that you acknowledged through your £21 million upgrade, which was only recently completed.”