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John Lewis’ future will be ‘strong’

On the publication of John Lewis & Partners’ Annual Report & Accounts (on April 21), the department store highlighted its recent ‘significant spike’ in online sales, which are up 84% year-on-year since the middle of March. Food preparation is one of the categories showing the highest demand during the current lockdown, according to a statement by John Lewis Partnership chairman Sharon White.

Above: Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sharon White.
Above: Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sharon White.

In her statement to partners, Sharon stressed that online increases cannot offset the loss of trade due to the temporary closure of John Lewis’ 50 stores. Overall, John Lewis sales are down 17% year-on-year since the middle of March, and down 7% year-on-year since 26 January. However Sharon also emphasised: “We are confident that the future of the business is strong.”

Sharon acknowledged the unpredictability of the months ahead and stated that a “worst case scenario would result in a sales decline of around 35% in John Lewis, around double the current level.”

The retailer is reducing operating costs, including lowering its planned stock intake, furloughing more than 14,000 John Lewis store partners, and cutting back on marketing spend by close to £100m.

It will also be “revamping” its ‘Home offer in John Lewis to provide a better range of inspiring products at more accessible prices.”

The John Lewis Partnership is looking at its store estate, recognising that more people will continue to shop online. Sharon stated: “In some instances that will mean repurposing or reducing the size of existing stores as we have done at John Lewis Peterborough and Waitrose Cheltenham. In other cases it may mean opening new stores in different formats or it may mean closing stores.”

In her statement, Sharon highlighted that demand at Waitrose has risen sharply as a result of the pandemic while operating costs have also increased for the supermarket chain.

* John Lewis has today (April 27) announced that it is reopening its textiles factory ‘Herbert Parkinson’ in Lancashire, to make protective gowns for the NHS.


Top: John Lewis and Waitrose partners.

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