John Lewis could lose 19 stores to Covid crisis
Economy suffers pandemic fallout as major firms slash 12,000 jobs in two days in scramble to save money
JOHN LEWIS has warned staff to brace for mass redundancies as the department store chain yesterday joined a slew of major companies cutting thousands of jobs in a scramble to slash costs after lockdown.
The besieged retailer is to permanently close up to 19 stores and axe one of its main offices and has told staff they will lose their annual bonus. It has set out a timetable to reopen 32 of its 51 shops, but chairman Dame Sharon White told staff it was highly unlikely all the closed stores will return.
The warning comes as upmarket department store Harrods said it will cut nearly 700 jobs – about 14pc of its 4,800-strong workforce. Sir Philip Green’s retail empire Arcadia is also shedding 500 roles from its 2,500-strong head office workforce.
With cuts announced at firms including Airbus, consultant Accenture and shirtmaker TM Lewin, 12,000 job losses have been unveiled in the past 48 hours.
In a letter to John Lewis workers, Dame Sharon said: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. Regrettably, it is likely that there will be implications for some partners’ jobs.
“We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible.”
One of the mutual’s two offices in London will also close, the Evening
Standard first reported. It was home to 450 staff before coronavirus struck.
Dame Sharon said: “We are rethinking our head office space to cement more flexible working that has become a feature of the crisis, and will be relinquishing Partnership House.”
The firm will retain the office next door, which usually accommodates 2,400 staff. John Lewis, which also owns Waitrose, is preparing to open 10 more sites on July 16, including its flagship shop in Oxford Street. It has yet to confirm if other stores, including Birmingham and White City, will reopen and said its employees will be the first to know what will happen by the middle of July.
Previously one of the most resilient names on the high street, the employee-owned company faces more trouble as coronavirus adds to the woes of a retail industry already ravaged by the rise of internet shopping.
Dame Sharon is also expected to abandon some of her predecessor Sir Charlie Mayfield’s plans, pending the results of a strategic review at the end of the month.