John Lewis to shut one of its three Scottish department stores in shock move

John Lewis is to close its Aberdeen department store dealing a major blow to the city’s retail sector and economy.

The large site is one of three department stores that the partnership runs in Scotland. It has 265 “partners” working there. The other two, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, will reopen over the coming weeks following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

John Lewis Partnership said it was not planning to reopen eight of its 42 John Lewis shops from lockdown, as it “rebalances its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop”. It follows a warning from the retail giant earlier this month.

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The eight shops identified for closure are four “At Home” shops, in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells, and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.

John Lewis currently has three department stores in Scotland, in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, pictured above. Picture: John Devlin
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The employee-owned retailer said it would enter into consultation with the 1,465 affected “partners” about its proposals. Every effort would be found to find alternative roles in the partnership for as many people as possible, it added.

Chairman Sharon White said: “Today’s announcement is incredibly sad news for our affected partners, for our customers and for the communities we’ve served over many years.

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“The high street is going through its biggest change for a generation and we are changing with it. Customers will still be able to get the trusted service that we are known for - however and wherever they want to shop.”

Pippa Wicks, executive director for John Lewis, said: “Closing stores is the toughest thing we do as a partnership because we all own our business. If the closures are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for partners and for us to continue to serve our customers by providing access to John Lewis in different ways.

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The distinctive facade of the John Lewis Aberdeen store. Picture: John Lewis Partnership

“Alongside a growing online business and the expansion of next day click and collect, we will invest in our in-store services and experiences, as well as new, smaller neighbourhood formats and the introduction of John Lewis ranges in more Waitrose shops.”

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The partnership said the Glasgow department store would reopen from April 26, with the Edinburgh reopening not taking place until May 14.

Earlier this month it emerged that the group had swung to a £517 million annual loss after the pandemic hit trade at the department store business.

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It also scrapped its staff – or “partner” – bonus for the first time since 1953, as previously reported, after the coronavirus crisis and “substantial” exceptional costs sent it plunging to the hefty loss for the year to January 30 against profits of £146m the previous year.

Kevin Mountford, co-founder of savings provider Raisin UK, said: “Consumer habits have changed, and what we are seeing is ultimately a move from physical shopping to an online one with a click of a button.

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“The pandemic has taught us, as consumers, that convenience is massively important, and with certain restrictions allowing us not to go into non-essential retail shops, it's only adapted us into the online world. Where we have gotten used to this, it might be hard to switch back.”

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