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Britain’s John Lewis to increase digital focus and diversify

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British retailer the John Lewis Partnership will accelerate the expansion of its online business, diversify beyond retail and seek more partnerships as it aims to recover profitability, it said on Friday.

Detailing a five-year plan to grow the employee-owned department stores and Waitrose supermarket group, Chairman Sharon White said she was targeting profit of 400 million pounds ($515 million) by year five.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered Britain’s retail sector, leaving gaping holes on the country’s main shopping streets and costing tens of thousands of jobs. The crisis has forced retailers to re-think their business models.

The partnership will spend 1 billion pounds to grow its online business and improve its stores, and is targeting efficiency savings of 300 million pounds a year by 2022.

Its plan will see the department stores business become a 60-70% online retailer by 2025 from 40% before the crisis.

It will diversify into product rental and resale, private rented and social housing and expand its savings and insurance offer.

John Lewis will retain its “Never Knowingly Undersold” price pledge, though it may be modified next year.

Waitrose’s delivery capacity will grow to over 250,000 orders per week, up from 55,000 before the pandemic, and to attract more customers it plans more partnerships like its recent trial with Deliveroo.

“We’ve seen five years of change in the past five months and Waitrose and John Lewis have responded with great agility. Our plan means the John Lewis Partnership will thrive for the next century, as it has the last,” said White.

Last month the partnership reported a first half loss of 635 million pounds after writing down the value of its department stores by 470 million pounds.

($1 = 0.7746 pounds)

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