John Lewis is known to be contemplating a recent spherical of retailer closures, underscoring the toll that the pandemic is taking over Britain’s abandoned excessive streets.
The 156-year-old retailer is known to be reconsidering the size of its nationwide community of branches, lower than eight months after it introduced the closure of eight shops to deal with the affect of coronavirus.
As much as eight extra of its 42 remaining shops may now be closed down, the Sunday Occasions reported, because the John Lewis Partnership, which additionally owns Waitrose, considers reducing house and prices by transferring into smaller websites.
John Lewis declined to remark, however any closures could be a brand new blow to Britain’s beleaguered excessive streets, after the latest demise of Debenhams and Philip Inexperienced’s Arcadia chain, which have been purchased by on-line specialists Boohoo and Asos and can disappear from purchasing streets.
The consent of the corporate’s landlords will probably be key in any plan by John Lewis to close retailers. However the downsizing plans might be revealed alongside the corporate’s annual outcomes, due on 11 March, when the extent of the harm wreaked by the pandemic will change into clearer.
Whereas on-line retailers similar to Amazon and Ocado have thrived amid successive lockdowns, proudly owning a nationwide community of branches has hit retailers like John Lewis laborious.
The affect of Covid-19 got here on the worst potential time for the corporate, which was already going through mounting issues from on-line rivals. It had reported its first ever half-year loss in September 2019.
In September final yr, after the primary lockdown, the corporate mentioned gross sales had been holding up effectively, as on-line gross sales had surged.
However the affect of that success has hit the shops laborious. Earlier than the pandemic the shop group calculated that £6 out of each £10 in gross sales was linked to shopping in shops. However final autumn the group mentioned that Covid had minimize the gross sales linked to shops to simply £three out of £10.
Because of this the group slashed the notional worth of its bricks-and-mortar retailers by £470m – which pushed the corporate to an enormous £635m half-year loss.
The hunch into the pink meant that John Lewis said it would cancel the annual bonus it awards to staff this yr for the primary time since 1953.
The store closures came at a cost of 1,300 jobs, with retailers in Croydon, Watford, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth shutting their doorways, in addition to small hubs at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras station.
A brand new retailer in Birmingham, the place the division retailer’s former managing director Andy Avenue is mayor of the West Midlands, was additionally shut down.
White is hoping to revive the group’s fortunes with a transfer into property, converting nearly half of the corporate’s flagship division retailer on London’s Oxford Avenue into workplace house. There are additionally plans to build homes for rent alongside a few of its supermarkets.
In response to a report launched final month, England’s excessive streets may lose as much as 400,000 retail jobs because of extra folks working from home and purchasing on-line after the coronavirus pandemic, with prosperous cities within the south among the many most susceptible.
The UK Treasury is exploring choices for an internet gross sales tax in response to an explosion in web purchasing, as Covid-19 accelerates the closure of excessive road retailers throughout the nation.