Boots and John Lewis shed thousands of jobs

Boots and John Lewis have announced downsizing plans which will cut thousands of retail jobs.

The pharmacy chain will shed more than 4,000 jobs - around seven per cent of its total UK workforce - as part of action to mitigate the “significant impact” of COVID-19.

Roles in its Nottingham support office will be particularly affected, along with those lost due to the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.

Retail sales plunged 48 per cent during the company's third quarter because of the pandemic, despite Boots being able to keep many of it stores open during lockdown as it was classified as an essential retailer.

Footfall however, was “dramatically reduced”, while its revenue-driving beauty and fragrance counters were closed, along with more than 100 larger Boots stores in city centre, station and airport locations.

“The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth,” stated Boots UK managing director Sebastian James.

“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”

Meanwhile, the permanent closure of eight John Lewis stores will result in 1,300 jobs being at risk of redundancy.

The stores to be closed include smaller 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.

However, the department store chain will reopen its Swindon store on 30 July, alongside one in Leicester once the local lockdown ends, taking the total number of reopened John Lewis shops to 42.

John Lewis Partnership said that if redundancies are confirmed, “every effort would be made to find new roles where possible” for staff who wish to remain with the company. This could include being transferred to a local Waitrose stores or working for the online arms of John Lewis and Waitrose.

The company stated the eight shops set for closure were already financially challenged before the pandemic - with 40 per cent of sales already online, with forecasts that this could grow to between 60 per cent to 70 per cent of total sales this year and next.

John Lewis and Waitrose will therefore “continue to invest heavily” in e-commerce capabilities.

John Lewis chairman Sharon White added: “We will soon announce the output of our strategic review which will ensure our brands stay relevant for future generations of customers.”

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