John Lewis ‘highly unlikely’ to reopen all 50 stores after lockdown - here’s what could happen

Sources have said it is “highly unlikely” all 50 stores will reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)Sources have said it is “highly unlikely” all 50 stores will reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)
Sources have said it is “highly unlikely” all 50 stores will reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)

The coronavirus pandemic has brought chaos to our lives, and the effects have been felt on businesses across the country.

Many companies across the UK have been forced to close and place staff on an emergency furlough scheme as they struggle with costs, while several businesses have been forced into administration, including Debenhams, Oasis and Warehouse.

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And now John Lewis looks set to be the latest victim of the outbreak.

Are John Lewis stores closing?

Senior management at John Lewis have begun discussions regarding the reopening of its department stores post lockdown, debating whether some should remain permanently closed.

Sources close to the retailer have said it is “highly unlikely” that all 50 of its stores will reopen once they are able.

Dame Sharon White, the new chairman of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) and her team are to address analysts on Wednesday (29 Apr), updating them on the company's performance during the past week.

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There has also been speculation that Dame Sharon will need to seek out financial institutions through a corporate bond for extra money.

What is John Lewis planning to do?

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On Monday (27 Apr), The Times reported that the former Ofcom chief is seeking out views to see if investors are willing.

A previous bond was launched in 2011 with a 4.5 per cent interest rate and 2 per cent in store vouchers.

However, with the retail industry seeing a major increase in online operations, discussions are now under way on whether it will be financially viable for the company to reopen its department stores.

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Thirty per cent of all retail is done online, according to retail analyst Richard Hyman, but for John Lewis that number was short of 50 per cent before the coronavirus outbreak. And now it is at 100 per cent.

Mr Hyman, explained: "Does it make sense for John Lewis to close some stores, absolutely yes.

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"No one wants to see people losing their jobs which is what would happen, but the reality is for the market at large, online has been getting bigger and bigger, with John Lewis at the vanguard.

"The reality is the retail world we are all moving into means every retailer needs fewer stores than it did before, including John Lewis, and not addressing this problem puts the rest of the business in jeopardy."

Has a decision been made yet?

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In February, Dame Sharon warned that stores are unlikely to remain open without financial improvements.

The company is yet to confirm whether all of its 50 stores will reopen when lockdown is lifted.

In a statement JLP said: "We keep our estate under continuous review in order to ensure we have the right amounts of shops to best serve our customers and remain commercially viable.

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"It is too early to make a decision but, as always, any decision that is made is done with securing the long-term financial sustainability of the Partnership and is always communicated to our Partners first."

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