John Lewis has today confirmed that some of its stores will remain permanently closed, with a decision on which stores will close due by the end of March.
The pandemic saw it report its first ever annual loss, £517m in the read for the year to January, compared with profits of £146m the previous year.
It was previously reported the chain was considering closing as many as eight stores to try to cut costs.
The closures would be in addition to eight already announced in 2020.
John Lewis currently has 42 John Lewis shops and said it is ongoing talks with landlords before making any final decisions on which stores will close permanently.
More recently, it has been experimenting with smaller format stores and concessions within Waitrose stores.
But it’s the rise in internet shopping – accelerated by the Covid-19 lockdown measures – that has forced John Lewis to consider how many larger department stores it requires to meet the changing habits of modern shoppers.
Dame Sharon White, the firm’s chair, told BBC News that the decision to close stores was “painful” but necessary due to a “decade of changes in shopping habits in one year”.
She added: ”There is no getting away from the fact that some areas can no longer profitably sustain a John Lewis store.
“Regrettably, we do not expect to reopen all our John Lewis shops at the end of lockdown, which will also have implications for our supply chain.”
She said: “We want to ensure our stores reflect how customers want to shop – ‘right space, right place’.”
The John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose food stores benefitted from a jump in demand for online deliveries as people sought to minimise trips to the supermarket.
The Waitrose website has been receiving almost 250,000 orders per week, and now operates as a £1bn sales business.
The increased demand for groceries from Waitrose, however, has not offset the group’s problems with its department stores.
As a result, John Lewis confirmed that it would not be following the lead of other supermarket rivals in returning the business rates relief received from the government.
John Lewis has claimed £190m in combined rates relief and support under the furlough scheme. The firm said it would also be claiming business rates relief between April and June.
The tax holiday had helped it avoid “a more severe restructuring… which would have put more jobs at risk”.
Highlighting the ongoing crisis on Britains’ high streets, the firm added: ”We are not out of the crisis yet and the economic environment remains extremely uncertain.”