The John Lewis Partnership announced it is temporarily closing all of its 50 John Lewis shops at close of business on Monday as a result of the impact of coronavirus, the first time in 155 years that the business will not open for customers.
“The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority,” said Chairman Sharon White. “It is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops. Our partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting and providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through johnlewis.com.”
Johnlewis.com will continue to operate as normal. All 338 Waitrose shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands will remain open as will waitrose.com. Waitrose food offers within department stores at Watford, Southampton and Bluewater will also close.
More than 2,000 John Lewis Partners are already working in Waitrose shops to assist with the demand for grocery and other essential goods. John Lewis partners are being redeployed to provide additional support to Waitrose and johnlewis.com.
“We have faced many difficult periods, including two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis. On every occasion, thanks to our customers and partners, and the long standing relationships with our suppliers and stakeholders, we have emerged stronger,” White said. “We all need to continue to support each other and our strength and resilience will be tested, but they will not be broken.”
The company said “shop footfall in John Lewis has fallen and this extraordinary volatility makes predicting full year cash flow and profits difficult. … The scale of the societal and business impact of coronavirus is like nothing we have seen in recent times.
In other news:
The John Lewis Partnership is joining forces with leading charities to boost support of the most vulnerable in society during the current crisis. A donation of £75,000 will initially be given to each charity, including Age UK, FareShare and the Trussell Trust. The funding will be used for immediate activity in response to the coronavirus outbreak, giving vital help to those in local communities undergoing isolation and food insecurity.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the John Lewis Partnership in this time of crisis,” Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said. “The coronavirus pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge and as it progresses, more people than ever may need help from food banks across our network. We know that together we can better support communities across the UK so we are truly grateful for this vital support.”
Earlier this week, the John Lewis Partnership also announced new measures to support customers, including the launch of a £1million Community Support Fund to help local communities along with a protected shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable. The retailer also launched a support fund to aid Partners of the John Lewis Partnership who are facing additional costs as a result of the pandemic; such as childcare costs. Partners will also be offered free meals at work.
In addition, Waitrose shops are setting aside a proportion of hard-to-find and essential products from every delivery that arrives into its supermarkets – exclusively for NHS staff, on production of an NHS card. NHS staff will be given priority checkout service in the retailer’s shops.
“I want to give my personal thanks to every single partner for their extraordinary efforts,” White said. “I am truly grateful. And to the wider community for pulling together with us during such unprecedented times.”