The retail bloodbath has continued apace as the John Lewis Partnership warned over store closures and job cuts and Sir Philip Green’s Topshop empire also revealed redundancy plans.
In a letter to staff, John Lewis’s new chairman Sharon White confirmed plans to shut several shops, axe one of its two offices in Victoria and cut roles.
It comes as Sir Philip’s Arcadia group also said it was cutting around 500 of its 2,500 head office jobs amid a restructure in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Luxury department store Harrods is also slashing around 700 posts as the pandemic and lockdown wreaks havoc on Britain’s high street.
Earlier on Tuesday, Upper Crust owner SSP announced up to 5,000 roles could go following plunging passengers numbers at railway stations and airports.
John Lewis said: “The reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now and we have shared this with our partners.
“As difficult as it is, it is highly unlikely we will reopen all our John Lewis stores.
“However no decision has been made and any details would be shared with partners first by the middle of July.”
Insiders have been warning recently it was unlikely all 50 of its stores would ever reopen again after lockdown.
It unveiled plans separately on Wednesday to reopen another 10 stores, including its flagship Oxford street site, bringing the total to 32 so far, though 18 remain closed.
But in a further blow to staff, the group, which also owns Waitrose, cautioned staff that their annual bonus was also likely to be scrapped next year amid a drive to boost profits.
The grim day for retail also saw Arcadia blame “very challenging times” as it revealed plans to trim its head office operations.
The group, which also owns Burton and other high street brands, said: “Due to the impact of Covid-19 on our business including the closure for over three months of all our stores and head offices, we have today informed staff of the need to restructure our head offices.”
“This restructuring is essential to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible during these very challenging times.”
Harrods boss Michael Ward told staff in a memo that the group was launching a consultation on plans to cut 14% of its 4,800 staff.
“With a heavy-heart, today I need to confirm that due to the ongoing impacts of this pandemic, we as a business will need to make reductions to our workforce,” he wrote in a note seen by the PA news agency.
He added: “The necessary social distancing requirements to protect employees and customers is having a huge impact on our ability to trade while the devastation in international travel has meant we have lost key customers coming to our store and frontline operations.”
Milan Pandya, a partner at tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg, called for a “clear and comprehensive plan” from the Chancellor to support cash-strapped non-essential retailers.
He added: “The fashion industry alone employs in excess of 900,000 people, many being in retail stores.
“If the recent spate of closures and redundancies continue the Government has a real long-term problem of unemployment as many jobs will be relatively low-skilled.”