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John Lewis, which also owns Waitrose, is slashing hundreds of millions of pounds from its spending plans and furloughing 14,000 staff.
Chloe Shakesby

"More Scrabble but fewer sofas": John Lewis furloughs 14,000 staff among fears of sales falling a third

A national retailer and supermarket owner has announced that it is furloughing 14,000 staff.

John Lewis, which also owns Waitrose, is slashing hundreds of millions of pounds from its spending plans.

The company has taken the measures following fears its sales could fall by a third.

Sharon White, partner and chairman, commented: “The pandemic has significantly changed the trading patterns in both brands.

“In Waitrose, we have seen strong sales growth up 8 per cent year-on-year since 26 January.

“Items in highest demand have been cupboard essentials like rice, pasta, long life milk; home baking; frozen foods and cleaning products.

“Sales have increased in both our shops and online. Demand for home delivery has been especially strong and we have increased our capacity by 50 per cent which puts us in good stead ahead of the ending of the Ocado contract in September.

“In John Lewis, trading has been mixed. With stores closed, we have seen a significant spike in our online sales which are up 84 per cent year-on-year since the middle of March.

“The highest demand has been in areas linked to working and living at home like technology and food preparation but also in looking after and entertaining our children and keeping fit.

“However, these are some of our less profitable lines. We are buying more Scrabble but fewer sofas. Overall, John Lewis sales are down 17 per cent year-on-year since the middle of March, and down 7 per cent year-on-year since 26 January.

“Our worst case scenario for the full year assumes significant sales decline between April and June, and weak sales thereafter.

“Over the course of the full year, this worst case would result in a sales decline of around 35 per cent in John Lewis, around double the current level, while at Waitrose it would result in a more modest decline of less than 5 per cent.

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