John Lewis & Partners is the UK’s largest department store chain in terms of sales, but has been coming under serious pressure of late, as retail as a whole faces disruption from both the pandemic and, prior to that, changing customer behaviours.

The retailer, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) alongside Waitrose, reported further reduced net sales of £3.7bn in the year to January 2021 (FY2020), with trading profits – the only profit measure now provided at divisional level – plummeting 24.5% to £554m.

John Lewis is overseen by ex-Co-op deputy chief Pippa Wicks since the departure of Paula Nickolds at the beginning of 2020. The creation of an executive role for the department store business, which sits on the JLP executive team, is part of an overall plan to bring the two different retailers closer together operationally, while maintaining separate brand identities.

JLP chair Sharon White launched a strategic review of the business in early 2020 and revealed her five-year strategy for the Partnership in October 2020, setting out plans to expand its digital, virtual and delivery capabilities in order to reach more customers around the UK. See parent company profile

The department store retailer has pushed technology up the agenda in recent years and has emerged as a leader in the industry’s journey towards a fully omnichannel environment. John Lewis now generates well over half of its sales online – a proportion which surged to 75% in FY2020 - which has been a key consideration in White’s decision to ‘right-size’ the store network as part of her review.

John Lewis had a 42-strong estate in early 2021, having permanently closed eight stores during the first national lockdown. And eight further stores have been shuttered during the early 2021 lockdown, with just 34 stores reopened from April 2021.

Improved digital capability for has been set as an investment priority for 2021 to reflect the acceleration of the shift to online as a result of the pandemic.

Innovation rating: 3.5

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