The shopping group, which also owns supermarket chain Waitrose, revealed annual pre-tax losses of £517millon for the year ending January 30 after its department stores were hammered by lockdowns and pandemic-related costs. The staggering drop in revenue comes just 12 months after the chain unveiled a booming £146million profit and represents the 92-year-old firm’s worst trading figures since the Second World War.
As a result the group said it does not expect all of its 42 remaining John Lewis shops to reopen at the end of this lockdown.
Emergency talks with landlords have been launched before a final decision is made at the end of March.
But insiders say eight stores have been earmarked for closure, on top of the eight announced last July.
The closures will result in the loss of hundreds of in-store jobs and will have a devastating impact on surrounding businesses that require the department stores to drive consumer traffic.
In a further blow to workers, the group confirmed it had scrapped its much-heralded staff bonus scheme for the first time since 1953.
Chairwoman Sharon White said: “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.
“We will do everything we can to lessen the impact and will continue to provide community funds to support local areas.”
The news is the latest blow to Britain’s high streets and comes as supermarket Morrisons saw pre-tax profits halve last year after the group was hit by £290million in pandemic-related costs.