John Lewis closes stores for first time in 155 years amid coronavirus fears

The retailer’s staff members have been relocated to Waitrose stores to help with demand

Luxury department store John Lewis has followed its competitors by taking the ‘difficult’ decision to temporarily close its 50 stores in the UK amid coronavirus fears.

This will be the first time in the retailer’s 155-year history that it has closed its doors to customers.

The partnership’s Waitrose shops inside John Lewis stores will be affected by the decision.

John Lewis’ Chairman Sharon White said the decision had been made with a heavy heart.

“The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority,” said White.

“The partnership has traded for over 155 years, during which time we have faced many difficult periods, including two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis.

“On every occasion, thanks to our customers and partners, and the long-standing relationships with our suppliers and stakeholders, we have emerged stronger.

“We all need to continue to support each other and our strength and resilience will be tested. But they will not be broken.”

In the announcement, White also gave her personal thanks to the company’s team for their “extraordinary efforts”.

All 338 Waitrose stores across England, Scotland, Wales and Channel Islands will remain open as will its online shop.

More than 2,000 John Lewis workers are said to be working in Waitrose shops to assist with demand.

White added: “Our partnership will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting fellow partners, providing critical services in supporting their fellow partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through”

The retailer has also said it has taken steps to protect its liquidity during this time.