The John Lewis Partnership has suffered massive losses during the coronavirus pandemic and has announced that it does not expect to open some of its stores once the lockdown lifts. However the retailer is trialling the selling of its products in some Waitrose supermarkets around the country. This will see mini-John Lewis shops within the food supermarket.
John Lewis has announced that it is introducing these new “shopping areas” in Godalming, Horley, Wallingford, Lincoln, and Lymington.
The retailer has revealed that this trial’s “early signs are positive”.
If successful, John Lewis will roll out these shopping areas to a significant number of the brand’s 331 Waitrose shops.
The company said: “Our plan is for all the general merchandise in Waitrose shops to be sourced from John Lewis.”
Due to the pandemic, John Lewis announced last year that it would not pay a bonus to its staff for the first time since 1953 and the company had to cut 1,300 jobs.
The brand also said that it would have to close eight stores, including its Birmingham, Watford, and Newbury shops.
Since then, the Sunday Times has reported that eight more stores are at risk.
Dame Sharon White, John Lewis’ partner and chairman, released a statement today.
She said: “The past year has been one of the most challenging in the Partnership’s history.
“The Partnership recorded a Loss before tax of £517m, compared to a Profit before tax of £146m in the previous year.
“This is the result of substantial exceptional costs of £648m, mainly the write down in the value of John Lewis shops owing to the pronounced shift to online, as well as restructuring and redundancy costs from store closures and changes to our head office.”
“John Lewis shops are now held on our balance sheet at almost half the value they were before this year’s and last year’s write downs,” The John Lewis boss added.
Before the pandemic, John Lewis judged that every £6 in every £10 spent online was driven by its shops, whereas the ratio has now fallen to £3 in every £10.
The company was given £190million in support by the Government, which was made up of business rates relief and furlough support, the latter only until July last year.
Dame White said: “We are not out of the crisis yet and the economic environment remains extremely uncertain. Therefore, our current intention is to accept the business rates relief made available from April to June, but we will keep this under review.”
The partner and chairman referred to the company’s store closures last year, saying: “Last year we closed eight John Lewis stores and seven Waitrose stores that were loss making, and we are in the process of reducing the cost of our head office by 20 percent.”
However, the company’s online retailers seem to be doing better than ever.
Waitrose.com has grown fourfold since February 2020, now taking around 240,000 orders a week and stands as a £1billion sales business.
The John Lewis website has also grown significantly, up 73 percent since the start of the pandemic last year.
But looking at the future of John Lewis physical stores, Ms White said: “Hard as it is, there is no getting away from the fact that some areas can no longer profitably sustain a John Lewis store.
“Regrettably, we do not expect to reopen all our John Lewis shops at the end of lockdown, which will also have implications for our supply chain.
“We are currently in discussions with landlords and final decisions are expected by the end of March.”