Reopening date not yet announced as staff told closures are planned
The future of the John Lewis department store in the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush is unclear at the moment.
A leaked email from recently appointed CEO Sharon White to staff warns that job losses and closures in the group are to be expected due to the pandemic. This would include Waitrose stores as well.
There are currently 50 John Lewis stores across the country and the group recently announced plans to reopen 10 including the flagship store in Oxford Street in addition to 22 previously confirmed as reopening but they have admitted that it is 'highly unlikely’ that all 50 will reopen. The Peter Jones store in Sloane Square has already reopened. 18 remain closed with no indication of when they will open including the Shepherd’s Bush store.
This store opened just over two years ago costing £33 million as the anchor tenant for the Westfield extension. It covers 230,000 sq ft and includes a beauty spa, three places to eat and a personal fashion styling service. Unconfirmed reports suggest that trading at the store had been disappointing with takings barely covering salary costs.
In the stores that have reopened a number of social distancing measures have been put in place, including reducing the number of entrances and exits, limiting the number of customers allowed in each store, protective screens at checkouts as well as new drop boxes for returned goods which are quarantined for 48 hours. The group says it is adopting a ‘safe not fast’ approach to reopening.
The Evening Standard has been given a copy of the email written by Ms White to the group’s employees in which she says that bonuses are unlikely to be paid next year.
She states, 'With a heavy-heart, today I need to confirm that due to the ongoing impacts of this pandemic, we as a business will need to make reductions to our workforce' and said 14% of staff are likely to be laid off.
She continues, 'The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores. Regrettably, it is likely that there will implications for some Partners' jobs. We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible'.
Debenhams has also gone from Westfield with stock cleared from the store and management saying they have lined up replacement tenants.
John Lewis saw profits fall by 23% in their most recent set of accounts which cover a period before the pandemic and the staff bonus paid was 2% of salary the lowest level for more than 60 years.
A spokesperson for John Lewis told us, "Our utmost priority is the safety of our customers and Partners which is why we are taking a phased approach to the reopening of shops, with comprehensive safety and social distancing measures in place.
"Depending on the response from customers and Partners to our new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the summer. "
Westfield's spokesperson said, "The reopening of each store in our centres is up to the discretion of the individual retailer.".
July 1, 2020