John Lewis has confirmed the permanent closure of eight of its UK stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.
The retailer said the move was a bid secure the company’s long-term future.
The eight shops identified were already “financially challenged” before the coronavirus outbreak, according to John Lewis, with the pandemic accelerating the switch from shopping in-store to online.
Before the virus struck, 40 percent of John Lewis sales were online, it said. This could now be closer to 60 to 70 percent of total sales this year and next.
The stores to shut are: travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras, four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth, and two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford.
John Lewis said “every effort” would be made to find new roles for employees if they are made redundant.
It said opportunities could include transferring to local Waitrose shops or working for johnlewis.com and waitrose.com as they continue to grow.
The retailer joins a long list of companies in the UK making redundancies as the Covid-19 pandemic takes its toll.
Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership said: “Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and Partners.
“However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the Partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop.
“Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many Partners as possible within our business.
“There are many reasons to be optimistic about the Partnership’s future. Waitrose and John Lewis are two of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands and we have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic by responding to the new needs of customers.”
The retailer has also launched a Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any staff member with two years’ service or more.
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John Lewis said employees would also be given access to a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.
The announcement comes as John Lewis confirms its final wave of reopenings.
A further nine shops in Aberdeen, Ashford, Brent Cross, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Sheffield and White City Westfield will reopen on July 30.
Leicester will also reopen when the local lockdown for the city is lifted, taking the total number of reopened John Lewis shops to 42.
The Swindon outlet will also reopen on July 30.