It’s “highly unlikely” that all 50 John Lewis stores in the UK will remain open once the coronavirus lockdown ends, the Press Association has reported.
Dame Sharon White, the new chair of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), and her team are set to address analysts in the City on Wednesday, updating them on the company’s performance during the past week.
There has also been speculation that Dame Sharon will need to tap up customers and financial institutions, through a corporate bond, for extra cash.
JLP includes Waitrose, which has fared better during the lockdown by remaining open.
But with a major ramp-up of online operations, discussions are under way on whether it will be financially viable to reopen department stores. Several Waitrose stores have already been closed in recent years.
Retail analyst Richard Hyman said: “Does it make sense for John Lewis to close some stores? Absolutely, yes.
“No one wants to see people losing their jobs, which is what would happen, but the reality is, for the market at large, online has been getting bigger and bigger, with John Lewis at the vanguard.”
He pointed out that 30% of all retail is already online, adding: “For John Lewis, that number was short of 50% before Covid-19, although now it’s at 100%.
“The reality is the retail world we are all moving into means every retailer needs fewer stores than it did before, including John Lewis, and not addressing this problem puts the rest of the business in jeopardy.”
The development is the latest blow to troubled high-street stores – earlier this week Debenhams announced plans to close as a many as 22 stores, putting 1,200 jobs at risk across the department store chain.