Department stores and grocery group John Lewis Partnership has revealed the direction it will take following a strategic review.

The plans, outlined in a letter to the retailer’s 80,000 partners from chair Dame Sharon White, include a “rebalance” of the store estate, a focus on home and nursery, a “digital-first” approach in department stores and the provision of Waitrose products “through other routes” than shops.

They are grouped under five areas of focus. The retailer, which owns John Lewis department stores and grocer Waitrose, will fundamentally be “driven by purpose” and the emphasis will be on “simplifying how we work, strengthening retail, expanding into more services and partnering to grow”.

White said the intention is to strengthen retail. She wrote: “We have two of the best-loved and trusted brands in the UK, rated highly for our personal service and expert, impartial advice. Customers are, however, shopping in very different ways – younger people especially – with the pandemic accelerating the importance of digital. We expect John Lewis to be a 60% online retailer, from 40% pre-Covid-19, and Waitrose to rise above 20%, from 5%.”

The group will “double down on making shopping easier and more convenient” by investing in areas such as availability in-store and online, useability and personalisation of apps and websites, better loyalty rewards, online personal services and convenient pick-up.

John Lewis aims to be “the go-to brand for life’s big moments”. White said: “Shops will always be crucial to the brand but they will be in support of online. Over the next five years, we expect to rebalance our shop estate so that we have the right space in the right locations where people want to shop.

“John Lewis Home will be available in Waitrose. We will get more experimental with store formats. Shops will showcase our brilliant products - displaying great design with more space given over to experiences that cannot be found anywhere else.”

At Waitrose, White said: “Outside of their regular grocery shop, we know that our customers are spending a lot on food delivery services. We see significant scope for us to grow in this area, and are actively exploring early opportunities.

“We expect to see continued rebalancing of stores, opening new ones where we see strong customer demand, and potentially closing others where demand wanes. Our existing stores will be updated to meet customers’ expectations.

“And we are looking at how we make our products available through other routes, reflecting the fact that Waitrose has a smaller presence in the convenience market than other supermarkets. Where we know customers want it, we will also make Waitrose food available in more John Lewis shops.”

The group will seek to add new services such as private rented housing. White said:As we repurpose and potentially reduce our shop estate, we want to put excess space to good social use. We are exploring with third parties the concept of new mixed-use affordable housing.”

It will also create partnerships “with other businesses who respect our ethos and can bring resources or capabilities we don’t have”. White added: “This will allow us to grow efficiently. Partnerships will give new meaning to our ‘& Partners’ rebranding. We are already in a number of commercial discussions and are also looking at acquisitions.”

All the changes will be “driven by purpose”. White said: “Customers and partners have told us that our purpose should be modern, relevant and inspiring – while staying true to our core principles.

“The themes of tackling inequality, of wellbeing and sustainable living will be at its core. These have never felt so relevant, with the economic uncertainty and social inequality coming out of the pandemic.

“Our updated purpose will drive our commercial decisions and shape our employment practices. It will influence the services we offer to customers and how we work with new commercial partners. It could see us, for instance, taking firmer action on fair pay, working conditions, diversity and inclusion.”

Since becoming chair, White has reversed some decisions taken by her predecessor Sir Charlie Mayfield and has had to confront the impact of the pandemic. The retailer will update on its plans in the autumn.