Are Sussex's John Lewis stores safe? Let's hope so as our high streets can't afford to lose anymore

Our high streets have had a rough 12 months thanks to Covid-19, but with news John Lewis Partnership is considering more store closures it really shows the pandemic taking its toll.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 1:30 pm
Could this be a thing of the past? One of the displays at the John Lewis At Home store in Horsham

In Sussex we have the stand alone John Lewis At Home store in Chichester and then the John Lewis At Home store attached to the Waitrose in Horsham.

The nearest big department store is the one in West Quay, Southampton, which is set out over four floors.

The 156-year old retailer is apparently considering the future of its brick and mortar buildings, with up to eight more of its 42 remaining outlets potentially under threat, according to a Sunday Times report.

Opening day at Chichester's John Lewis At Home back in 2012

However, industry experts have suggested they think it will be the older stores that are more at risk so hopefully our stores which opened in 2012 and 2015 will be safe.

The news of potential closures comes after the retailer shut eight stores back in July to cope with the impact of coronavirus.

Back then, the shops identified for closure included two of the smallest in the estate — travel hub shops at Heathrow and St Pancras, four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth and two full size department stores in Birmingham and Watford.

A spokesperson said in July: “Before the virus struck, 40 percent of John Lewis sales were online. This could now be closer to 60 to 70 percent of total sales this year and next.

John Lewis At Home in Horsham

“Both John Lewis and Waitrose will continue to invest heavily in ecommerce to reflect this shift. Waitrose has already doubled its online capacity since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This will grow further, with a third online fulfilment centre in Greenford opening in partnership with logistics company Wincanton, and the continuing expansion of Waitrose Rapid, which allows shoppers to order and receive essential items within two hours. Further investment in is also planned.

“John Lewis shops have a vital role to play within the business and we are working on plans to ensure they continue to meet the needs of customers, alongside a vibrant ecommerce operation."

In its five year 'Partnership Plan' released in October the company said John Lewis was a 60 per cent online retailer. It also said it had plans to lead the 'made to last’ movement, ensuring its products can be "loved for longer".

Whether online sales continued to be buoyant since the summer and over lockdown two and three remains to be seen and will likely be revealed when it announces its annual results on March 11.

Perhaps I am of a rare breed who still loves to window shop, browsing the stores for ideas and invariably always leaving with at least one purchase, if not more.

I love to see the latest trends displayed in the At Home shops, the clever mixing of fabrics, paints, furniture and accessories that create a lifestyle that I want to buy into.

Scrolling through the website does not have quite the same appeal and I tend to use the website when I am looking for one specific item rather than ideas.

And I cannot be the only one who loves the stores. I remember when the Chichester At Home shop opened in 2012 and the scrum of customers trying to be the first through the door.

Likewise when the Horsham Waitrose and John Lewis At Home store opened in 2015.

It will be interesting to see what the next month brings for John Lewis Partnership - I for one just hope our beautiful stores remain for many years to come.