John Lewis speaks on future of Sheffield department store - after retailer's new boss warns of potential shop closures

John Lewis has said it will carry on supporting the council-led redevelopment of Sheffield city centre after the retailer’s new chairman warned of potential store closures and job losses amid upheaval on the high street.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 12:41 pm

Sharon White, who now leads the John Lewis Partnership which owns the department stores as well as Waitrose, told the employee-owned group’s staff council that it faced making ‘difficult decisions about stores and about jobs’ as it experienced its ‘most challenging period’ since its beginnings in the 1920s, according to The Guardian.

Trading remains disappointing, Ms White reportedly said, with not enough profits to invest in improvements.

The group employs more than 80,000 and has a turnover of £11.7bn, operating 50 John Lewis stores and 338 branches of Waitrose.

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John Lewis in Barker's Pool, Sheffield.

Last year the partnership closed 12 Waitrose supermarkets with a loss of 1,100 jobs, while the annual bonus paid to John Lewis Partnership workers fell from 18 per cent to three per cent between 2011 and 2019.

Sheffield’s John Lewis department store is staying put as work takes place on Heart of the City II, the council's £500 million scheme to transform 1.5 million sq ft of land between Pinstone Street, Wellington Street and The Moor with new shops, hotels, offices, apartments, leisure facilities and cafés.

The retailer owns the land on which the shop and car park – built in 1963 for Cole Brothers and rebranded in 2002 – stands in Barker’s Pool.

John Lewis would have moved to a brand new department store at Wellington Street, on the site of Sheffield's old central fire station, under Sevenstone, Heart of the City II’s unrealised predecessor which stalled in the recession.

But the company decided in 2012 that it was no longer seeking to relocate when progress slowed.

A spokeswoman for John Lewis said Ms White’s comments came from ‘an internal speech’.

She added: “We welcome the scheme to develop the heart of the city centre in order to make Sheffield a more vibrant and successful place.

“We continue to work with the council to support their plans for the proposed developments surrounding John Lewis.”