John Lewis poised to close stores, make redundancies and scrap bonus, reports claim

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Retail giant John Lewis is planning to close stores, make redundancies and scrap its prized bonus, it has been reported.

The department store chain finally reopened a raft of its stores last month, after closing three months ago when lockdown arrived.

However, it has been reported that new chairman Sharon White has sent a bombshell letter to staff, warning of potential closures as well as job losses.

According to the Evening Standard, Mrs White’s letter to staff of the partnership, which includes Waitrose, outlines a major cost-cutting drive and warns that its coveted annual bonus is also likely to come to an end next year.

In the letter seen by the London paper, Mrs White is reported to say: “The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores.

“Regrettably, it is likely that there will 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.

“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 in London.

“We entered the crisis with weakening profits, and we have taken a number of actions to preserve cash. Support from the Government has been a big help – they have paid most of our furlough costs and given us a holiday from business rates.

“Trade too has not been as bad as our worst-case scenario thanks to a lot of hard work from our Partners.

“However as our competitors reopen we expect trading to be tougher in the second half of the year. 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. I know this will be a blow for partners who have made sacrifices these past months.”

A spokeswoman for John Lewis also said that the firm is in discussions with shopping centre owner Intu, which fell into administration last week, to see how the process would affects its stores within Intu centres.

The spokeswoman said: “Following the announcement that Intu has entered into administration, we are working closely with them and the administrators to understand the implications for the small number of shops we have within their shopping centres.

“We have received assurances from the administrators that these centres will remain open while a buyer is found but are unable to say more at this stage.”

Talks of potential store closures comes as the retail giant unveiled reopening plans for another 10 stores, including its first in Wales and Scotland, as well as the chain’s flagship shop in Oxford Street.

The group said shops in Basingstoke, Cardiff, Chelmsford, Chester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Stratford and the Trafford Centre will reopen on Monday, July 13.

Its Oxford Street department store will open later in the week, on July 16, as John Lewis said the size of the shop meant it needed extra time to finalise plans.

The latest raft of reopenings will take the total for the group so far to 32 since lockdown restrictions have eased for non-essential shops, with 18 remaining closed.


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