John Lewis Partnership’s chairman Sharon White has refused to rule out the permanent closure of some John Lewis stores when the government’s high street lockdown ends, it has been reported.
White said she could not confirm any plans until it was clear when department stores would be allowed to reopen under the government’s guidance and that “no decisions had been taken” on specific stores, the Guardian has reported.
It follows reports that sources said it was “highly unlikely” all 50 John Lewis stores would reopen.
“It is not clear enough at the moment,” White is said to have told the newspaper yesterday. “We are doing financial modelling looking at when lockdown is going to end and looking at what life outside lockdown will be like.
”We will have to look at the financial position for us when we get more certainty over the second half [of the financial year to the end of January] before taking those decisions [on jobs and stores].”
She said it could take up to six weeks from when the government announces the lifting of restrictions to prepare department stores for reopening.
A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “To confirm we are working hard on a reopening blueprint at the moment but we will only be able to put it into action once the Government has specified the dates on - and conditions within - which it is happy for retailers to begin to reopen.
“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. 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.”
When White took over in February she warned of potential store closures and job cuts at the group.
Yesterday she announced that the partnership is recruiting for the role of executive director at John Lewis, in a fresh restructuring following the departure of White’s predecessor, Charlie Mayfield.
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