John Lewis to axe jobs and shut shops amid coronavirus crisis

Matt Mathers
·2 min read
John Lewis says a number of its stores will not reopen: Getty Images
John Lewis says a number of its stores will not reopen: Getty Images

John Lewis has announced it is set to axe jobs, shut shops and scrap staff bonuses as the struggling retailer attempts to cut costs amid the coronavirus crisis.

Sharon White, John Lewis chairman, wrote to the high street giant’s 80,000 partners informing them of the changes, which include the closure of one of its London offices.

Ms White, former chief executive at Ofcom, was brought into John Lewis last year in an attempt to turn the company’s fortunes around after it revealed that profits had plunged by around 45 per cent.

Announcing the cuts, White said: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now”. One of two head offices in Victoria, London, normally home to 450 staff, will reportedly close under plans to encourage flexible working.

White said that some stores that had closed during the pandemic will not reopen, potentially resulting in hundreds of job losses: “As difficult as it is, it is highly unlikely we will reopen all our John Lewis stores.”

However, no final decision has been made and any details will be shared with employees by the middle of July. “There is clearly a lot of uncertainty but as things stand, it is hard to see the circumstances where we will be able to pay a bonus next year,” White wrote to staff in a letter, the Evening Standard reported.

“I know this will be a blow for partners who have made sacrifices these past months.”

John Lewis, which also owns Waitrose, unveiled plans separately on Wednesday to reopen another 10 stores, including its flagship Oxford street site, bringing the total to 32 so far, though 18 remain closed.

It comes amid mass cuts and job losses in the retail sector. Philip Green’s Arcadia group also said it was cutting around 500 of its 2,500 head office jobs amid a restructure in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

A spokesperson for the group, which also owns Burton and other high street brands, said: “Due to the impact of Covid-19 on our business including the closure for over three months of all our stores and head offices, we have today informed staff of the need to restructure our head offices.”

“This restructuring is essential to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible during these very challenging times.”

And luxury department store Harrods is also reportedly slashing around 700 posts as the pandemic and lockdown wreaks havoc on Britain’s high street.

Earlier on Tuesday, Upper Crust owner SSP announced up to 5,000 roles could go following plunging passengers numbers at railway stations and airports.

Read more

John Lewis likely to permanently close some stores