John Lewis store

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Reuters

John Lewis has announced it is permanently closing eight of its stores, putting 1,300 workers at risk.

The retailer said it had to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.

Department stores in Birmingham and Watford will not reopen as the coronavirus lockdown eases.

At Home stores in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth will also shut down, as will travel sites at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras.

The move comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures aimed at safeguarding jobs amid the downturn, including a one-off £1,000 payment to employers for every furloughed employee retained to the end of January 2021.

John Lewis had warned in March it could close shops as a plunge in profits forced it to cut staff bonuses to their lowest level in almost 70 years.

It said the eight stores affected were already “financially challenged” even before the pandemic struck.

However, Covid-19 had caused customers to move more quickly towards online shopping and away from stores.

‘Sad news’

John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said: “Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.

“However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers, however and wherever they want to shop.”

Ms White said John Lewis would do everything it could to keep on as many people as possible.

The John Lewis Partnership is owned by its staff – known as partners – who usually receive a bonus each year.

This year, staff bonuses were set at 2%, the lowest since 1953 when it paid no bonus.

Profits at the partnership dived by 23% last year to £123m – the third year in a row that profits have fallen – as it continued to struggle with the slowdown in consumer spending.

Jobless rise

Despite the chancellor’s back-to-work bonus announced on Wednesday, millions of workers could still end up out of work.

Union leaders warned that job losses would “gather pace” while economists predicted “a rapid rise in unemployment”.

They warned that incentives to save jobs were not large enough to persuade bosses to keep workers.

Mr Sunak warned of “a significant impact on unemployment and on job losses”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Is unemployment going to rise, are people going to lose their jobs? Yes, and the scale of this is significant.

“We are entering one of the most severe recessions this country has ever seen. That is, of course, going to have a significant impact on unemployment and on job losses.”

Later, he told Sky News: “I’ve been very clear that we are not going to be able to protect every single job and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise.”


Do you work in any of the John Lewis stores which are due to close? How will you be affected? Email: .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.



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