Dame Sharon White, Chair of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership which includes Waitrose stores has informed their 80,000 staff of radical new schemes to reverse the recent decline through radically exploring new business models such turning its now empty shops into new affordable mixed-use housing.
Other plans put forward are to create more partnerships with other businesses, sell products through “other routes” and to plant “Green Shoots” within a year with a move into garden centres.
This has come about due to a drop in its offline retail shop sales and the acceleration of competitive online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic whereby 8 out of its 50 department store have been closed, cuts in head office staff, and a drop in profits by a quarter to £123 million in the past year.
Dame Sharon White’s vision is to repurpose the empty retail space and reduce shop estate by putting it to “good social use” through exploring ways to create new affordable housing schemes that could reshape the high street. This may mean closing yet more stores and increasing support online which accounts for around 60 per cent of John Lewis sales. There are also plans to increase Waitrose sales online from its current 5 per cent to a fifth of all sales.
Other commercial decisions under review over the next 12 months to boost profits are to: further acquisitions; partnerships with like-minded businesses with different resources and capabilities; exploring ways to cross-sell John Lewis and Waitrose products such as food halls in John Lewis shops and John Lewis homeware and home improvements sectors into Waitrose; considering ways that customers can “rent’ its products and sell used ones through an online “marketplace’; and developing non-retail services.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Dame Sharon White’s three to five-year longer plan is the aim to create a garden centres by building on its current outdoor, gardening and Leckford Estate ranges… Green shoots indeed.