A major department store in York is closing for good as the latest high street casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
The John Lewis Partnership has today confirmed that it will not be reopening its store at the Vangarde Shopping Park when lockdown ends after Covid-19 wiped out its profits.
John Lewis York, which opened in April 2014, is one of eight proposed John Lewis shop closures as the high street giant looks to rebalance its store estate to reflect how customers want to shop.
A spokesman said: “We will enter into consultation with the 209 affected York Partners [staff] about our proposals. Should we proceed, we will seek to find alternative roles in the Partnership for as many as possible.”
Kylie Gilson, head of branch for John Lewis York, said: “It has been a huge privilege to work alongside such brilliant Partners at the Vangarde Shopping Park and it is with a heavy heart that we share the proposal to close the store.
“We hope that if the closure goes ahead we would still see many of our customers in nearby Waitrose shops and John Lewis Leeds.”
The eight shops identified for closure include four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores – in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.
The John Lewis Partnership, which has 42 department stores and the upmarket Waitrose supermarket chain, recorded a £517m loss for 2020.
It recently confirmed that staff would not receive a bonus for the first time in 67 years.
The closure which is designed to help reduce the chain’s significant property costs is a major blow for the store team and York.
John Lewis is a big draw to the Vangarde Shopping Park, on the outskirts of the city, alongside the large Marks & Spencers and Next stores, and its close proximity to the new Community Stadium.
The John Lewis spokesman added: “At the Partnership’s full year results earlier this month we said that we will reshape our business in response to how our customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online.
“This follows substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country.
“As part of this, we believe we can unfortunately no longer profitably sustain the John Lewis shop in York.
“However, the research means we will also invest in providing more access to John Lewis through improving our Click & Collect service, as well as trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores.
“All of these shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic.
“Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years – and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse – we do not think the performance of these stores can be substantially improved.
“We expect 60% to 70% of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future. Nearly 50% of our customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.”
John Lewis home delivery is still available to customers in York, offering named or next day delivery, standard five-day delivery and next day Click & Collect.
Within driving distance from the shop, customers can collect their John Lewis purchases from two Waitrose shops, including Waitrose York, 17 Co-op Click & Collect points and can shop with us at John Lewis Leeds.
“If redundancies are confirmed, every effort will be made to find affected Partners new roles,” she added.
“Partners who cannot or choose not to remain with the Partnership will also have access to a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any Partner with two years’ service or more.
“All Partners will have the option of a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.
“In addition to statutory redundancy payments, Partners who have worked with the business for more than a year would be entitled to Partnership redundancy pay, which equates to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age.
“Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay.
“We will also provide a £1m Community Investment Fund, to support local projects and to be shared among the eight local areas where we propose to close shops.”
Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership said: “We are very sad about the proposed closure of our York store and we’re very grateful for our loyal customers and Partners for their support over the years.
“This is a difficult decision but it is necessary to secure the whole Partnership for the future.
“If the closure goes ahead, we have put together a carefully considered package of support for our York Partners and would look to redeploy as many of them as possible.”
The Group has previously said it intends to invest £800m into improving its remaining stores and upgrade online shopping opportunities, including developing its shopping app for smartphones.
It has taken advantage of the government business rates relief and furlough support, worth £190m, to soften the blow of the crisis.
Waitrose stores are expected to house John Lewis-branded areas while there are also plans for “smaller, more flexible” outlets.
John Lewis in York sells home furnishings and accessories, electronics, fashion and beauty and offers a range of services from personal styling, to gift lists and furnishings, fabrics and floor coverings.
The store also has a Hotel Chocolat café on the ground floor and another cafe on the first floor.
The department store’s Community Matters Scheme has donated thousands of pounds to local charities, inlcuidng to SASH York supporting youth homelessness in the city, the IDAS Women’s Refuge and Cruse Bereavement York and North Yorkshire Area.