John Lewis has issued official details about its store opening plans and, like retail peer Next, it's planning to take it very cautiously once it's allowed to open its shops on June 15.
Talking of a “gradual approach”, starting with its Poole and Kingston department stores on the first day reopenings are allowed, this will be followed by 11 others on June 18.
Then, “depending on the response from customers” and staff to our new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, “more shops will open throughout the summer”.
The firm said it has learned from the social distancing measures in sister chain Waitrose and “plans initially to open just under a quarter of its shops as part of a steady, gradual approach with rigorous safety and social distancing measures in place”. Branches selected to open have been chosen primarily because of their accessibility by car.
That means the branches opening on June 18 include Bluewater, Cambridge, Cheadle, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, Horsham, Ipswich, Norwich, Nottingham, Solihull, and Welwyn.
There’s no news on when the Oxford Street, London, the flagship will reopen its doors, nor the Peter Jones branch on key shopping street the King’s Road.
The retailer said it will also “undertake an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of each of the operational changes it implements during this initial phase of reopening, making adjustments as it goes to ensure the best and safest experience possible”.
Each of the reopened stores will now have a Customer Service Host “assigned to welcome customers into the store and answer any questions while managing customer numbers, queues both at entrances and busy areas of the shop and explain to customers what changes they might see in-store”.
The firm will reduce the number of shop entrances, cap the number of customers entering stores, have prominent social distancing signage, plus protective screens at checkouts and areas of the shop where 2-meter social distancing can’t be achieved between customers and staff. There will also be control procedures for escalators and lifts, limiting the number of users.
That all goes along with “rigorous and frequent cleaning, [and] provision of hand sanitizer for customers to use at all entrances”. Beauty salons and fitting rooms will stay closed for now.
The firm also said that depending on customer feedback and how the first phase of openings progress, other initiatives that may be considered include virtual queueing, returns drop boxes, and enabling click & collect from its branch car parks.
The firm’s 50 department stores temporarily closed on 23 March for the first time in its 155-year history, although its website has stayed operational throughout and has seen “a significant uplift in sales”.
Parent company chair Sharon White said: “Our shops reopening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. There’s an opportunity now for us to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.
“However, while we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners.”