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John Lewis eyes move to turn empty stores into private housing

Chairman Dame Sharon White has told employees the retail group is eyeing a number of new markets as part of its strategic review.

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John Lewis bosses said further stores could close (PA)

John Lewis bosses said further stores could close (PA)

John Lewis bosses said further stores could close (PA)

John Lewis is considering turning empty stores into private housing and expanding into product rental as part of new proposals to help drive growth at the historic retailer.

Dame Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, told employees on Thursday that the retail group is eyeing a number of new markets as part of its strategic review.

She said the group is “exploring” opportunities to venture into private rented housing with third parties as it looks to “repurpose and potentially reduce” its shop portfolio.

Dame Sharon said the idea is one of a number of suggestions from employees selected for further development as it considers its long-term future.

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People queued outside the John Lewis department store in Edinburgh after it reopened last month (Jane Barlow/PA)

People queued outside the John Lewis department store in Edinburgh after it reopened last month (Jane Barlow/PA)

PA

People queued outside the John Lewis department store in Edinburgh after it reopened last month (Jane Barlow/PA)

Product rental and resale was also mentioned as another new area the group is considering.

It said it is looking at the potential to grow its financial services arm as well as a potential expansion into horticulture and garden products.

In addition, the retail group said it could close more Waitrose outlets as it assesses its supermarket arm’s current store estate.

In a letter to staff, Dame Sharon said: “We expect to see continued rebalancing of stores, opening new ones where we see strong customer demand and potentially closing others where demand wanes.

“Our existing stores will be updated to meet customers’ expectations.”

It comes weeks after John Lewis said it plans to close eight of its shops – including two department stores – with 1,300 jobs put at risk.

The chairman stressed the company is still looking to save £100 million through cuts at its head office.

PA