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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Laura Onita

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.

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