British retailer John Lewis might not reopen some stores

Last month, the 155-year old employee-owned retailer warned that department store sales could crash by 35%

  

LONDON- British department store chain John Lewis will emerge gradually from the coronavirus lockdown but may not reopen all its 50 stores, the group said on Wednesday.

The John Lewis Partnership, which also owns the Waitrose supermarket chain, said it would reopen two stores on June 15 in Poole, southern England, and Kingston in the capital London, followed by 11 others three days later.

"Depending on the response from customers and partners (employees) to our new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the summer," it said.

Asked if the plan was to reopen all John Lewis stores eventually, a spokeswoman said: "Decisions on our estate are made to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the partnership and it is far too early to make a decision."

Last month, the 155-year old employee-owned retailer warned that department store sales could crash by 35% this year in a worst-case scenario.

The group said it would accelerate a strategic review that new Chairman Sharon White launched in March. 

While all 50 department stores have been closed since March 23, John Lewis has continued to operate online while Waitrose has remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown.

"While we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores," said White.

Measures introduced include more rigorous and frequent cleaning, caps on the number of customers in stores, fewer entrances, prominent social distancing signage and protective screens at checkouts and store areas where two metres social distancing between customers and employees cannot be achieved.

John Lewis also plans to limit the customer services it offers. For example, close-contact beauty services will not be offered and customer catering outlets and fitting rooms will remain closed.

The retailer will also separate returned stock from other stock for 72 hours.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Clarke) ((james.davey@thomsonreuters.com))

More From Business