Monday 24 September 2018

Five Waitrose stores to close as John Lewis Partnership warns over profits

John Lewis has warned over profits (Charlotte Ball/PA)
John Lewis has warned over profits (Charlotte Ball/PA)

Ravender Sembhy and Helen Cahill

The John Lewis Partnership has warned over profits and said it will close five Waitrose stores as tough trading on the high street takes its toll on the firm.

The group, which is hosting a strategy day, said it does not expect to make a half-year profit, while profits for the full year will come in "substantially" lower than last year.

It bemoaned "market uncertainty" and cited significant extra costs at the partnership as a result of "greater IT investment", which will be a driver of the profit decline.

Waitrose will shut four convenience shops and one small supermarket, affecting around 200 staff.

Aldi will acquire Waitrose's store in Camden, London, where 68 staff are located.

However, the supermarket will shut while Aldi re-fits the store for around six months, meaning Waitrose will try to relocate staff.

The Co-op is picking up Waitrose convenience stores in Manchester Piccadilly, Spinningfields (which is also in Manchester), Colmore Row in Birmingham and Portman Square, London.

The Waitrose workers in these stores will transfer to the Co-op.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, warned that the malaise "isn't a blip".

He added: "It is very important that we feel the jeopardy of what is happening right now.

"This isn't a blip, it is a major shift and it has a while to run."

Waitrose is expected to see profit growth and John Lewis a decline.

The firm added: "It is widely acknowledged that the retail sector is going through a period of generational change and every retailer's response will be different. For the Partnership, the focus is on greater differentiation - not scale.

"We have clear plans to build on our strengths and to sharpen our points of difference in both Waitrose and John Lewis."

Retailers have been hammered by rising costs and falling consumer confidence, with several high-profile casualties this year resulting in hundreds of store closures.

Patrick Lewis, group finance director, said the John Lewis Partnership hoped to start increasing its profits again from 2019 onwards.

For the financial year-to-date, Waitrose's like-for-like sales have grown 1.5%, while John Lewis' like-for-like sales have been flat.

Press Association

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