John Lewis has confirmed that eight of its stores will not reopen, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.
The affected retail sites, which include the Birmingham and Watford department stores, were first earmarked for permanent closure in July and were already suffering financial difficulties.
Why won’t the stores reopen?
The retailer said that a number of contributing factors led to the decision to permanently close eight of its sites, but the stores were already financially challenged even prior to the pandemic.
However, a shift towards online shopping, which has been accelerated by the ongoing health crisis, has helped to speed up the inevitable closures.
Before the pandemic broke out, 40 per cent of John Lewis’ sales were online. The retailer now predicts that this figure could be closer to 60 or 70 per cent of its total sales, both for this year and next.
John Lewis said the steer towards online shopping has meant that its eight stores “would not be commercially viable in the future”.
The news of the closures comes after the Centre for Retail Research predicted that 20,000 shops could face permanent closure this year.
Several high street chains have already collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, including Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley, while Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse, Aldo and Quiz have all entered administration in the past few months.
What will happen to staff?
John Lewis has said it will work with the 1,300 affected staff - almost 400 of whom worked at the Birmingham store - to find new roles where possible.
In a statement, the retailer said: “This is a very sad occasion and one we never thought was imaginable when we first opened these shops.
“Our expectation was that we would trade in these locations for many years to come, but they were financially challenged before the pandemic and we have not been able to find a way that would allow us to turn that around.
“We are grateful to those who have expressed their support since announcing the proposed closure last month, and for the incredible professionalism our partners have shown - they remain our absolute priority and will be fully supported over the coming weeks.”
Which stores are closing?
The following eight John Lewis stores will not be reopening for business:
- Birmingham - department store
- Croydon - at home shop
- Heathrow - travel hub
- Newbury - at home shop
- St Pancras - travel hub
- Swindon - at home shop
- Tamworth - at home shop
- Watford - department store
The closures will bring the total number of John Lewis stores in the UK 43.
The retailer has been gradually reopening its branches in stages over the past few months, after the UK government permitted homeware shops to open to customers again when lockdown restrictions were eased on 21 May.
All of John Lewis’ remaining stores have now reopened for business.