John Lewis is to reopen nine further shops next week in addition to 13 it opened this week.
The department store chain will reopen at Cribbs Causeway, Leeds, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Southampton, Tunbridge Wells and York on Thursday 25 June. The group’s Peter Jones shop in Chelsea, London, will also open on the same day. It will take the total number of its stores open to 22, nearly half of the group’s 50 outlets.
Bérangère Michel, the director of customer service at John Lewis’s parent group, said: “The overwhelmingly positive feedback from both customers and partners on our first 13 department store reopenings this week has given us confidence to open in more locations.
“We found that in some shops we were able to increase the number of customers and still maintain robust social distancing.”
The company will provide hand sanitiser and limit the number of shoppers in store, in line with government guidelines for the reopening of non-essential retail in England during the coronavirus pandemic.
Changing rooms will remain closed and beauty services are suspended but John Lewis said shoppers would be able to lie on beds and try on and test wipeable products such as sunglasses, prams and tech products.
“Although we are not able to offer every single experience that we used to, we are still managing to offer customers a really varied shopping experience that is as close to normal and as enjoyable as we can possibly make it,” Michel said.
The latest reopenings come as retailers hope shoppers will snap up summer stock that has been languishing in stores and warehouses throughout the sunny spring season after clothing and footwear retailers were forced to close their doors when the UK went into lockdown in March.
In the week before non-essential stores were allowed to reopen in England, underlying sales slid by almost 20%, according to the advisory firm BDO’s regular weekly tracker of mid-sized chains. Online sales rose 87% in the week to 14 June but this was not enough to offset the 90% year-on-year dive in sales in shops.
While shoppers queued up at chains such as Primark, Zara and Sports Direct when stores reopened on Monday, it is clear that there has not been a sustained surge back to shopping centres and high streets this week.
Department stores are expected to be among the slowest to recover from the downturn because their large shops rely on services including cafes and beauty treatments – which are still closed – to draw in the crowds.
John Lewis has already set out a worst-case scenario where department stores sales fall by 35% this year.