John Lewis to close stores
John Lewis is to close its 50 department stores in the face of coronavirus later on Monday.
‘The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority. While it is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops, our partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting their fellow partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through johnlewis.com, which is seeing extremely strong demand,’ says Sharon White, John Lewis Partnership chairman.
‘The partnership has traded for over 155 years, during which time we have faced many difficult periods, including two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis. On every occasion, thanks to our customers and partners, and the long standing relationships with our suppliers and stakeholders, we have emerged stronger. We all need to continue to support each other and our strength and resilience will be tested. But they will not be broken.
‘I also want to give my personal thanks to every single partner for their extraordinary efforts, I am truly grateful. And to the wider community for pulling together with us during such unprecedented times.’
John Lewis staff will work at Waitrose and johnlewis.com where possible. The website accounts for half of the chain’s sales.
‘We are a diversified, resilient and strong business. Our financial strategy is focused on improving our financial strength and flexibility and managing cash and liquidity tightly. The government’s decision to introduce a business rates holiday will save the partnership around £160m over the next 12 months, and in addition, VAT and wages support is welcomed. We have reduced our total net debts by more than £1bn over the past five years and doubled our level of liquidity over the same period. We currently have approximately £1.5bn of liquidity, consisting of over £950m cash and £500m of undrawn committed credit facilities. Our current scenario, which takes into account the temporary closure of our John Lewis department stores, and models a significant net cash outflow in the year, shows that we have sufficient liquidity. However, we are not complacent; the scale of the societal and business impact of coronavirus is like nothing we have seen in recent times.’