CHESTER'S John Lewis store will not reopen following lockdown, the company has announced, with the potential loss of 86 jobs.

The John Lewis Partnership made the announcement on Wednesday, March 24 that it is not planning to reopen its John Lewis shop at the Greyhound Retail Park, as it undergoes a major shift in strategy to adapt to changing shopping habits.

The 38,000 sq ft store, which opened in 2011 and was seeing customers coming through its doors until lockdown hit this January, is one of eight John Lewis shops proposed for closure.

The firm said it would enter into consultation with the 86 affected Chester staff members about the proposals, adding it would seek to find alternative roles in the partnership for as many of them as possible.

At the partnership’s full year results earlier this month, John Lewis said it would reshape its business in response to how its customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online.

A John Lewis spokesperson said: "This follows substantial research to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country.

"As part of this, we believe we can unfortunately no longer profitably sustain the John Lewis shop in Chester.

"However, the research means we will also invest in providing more access to John Lewis through improving our Click & Collect service, as well as trialling the introduction of John Lewis shopping areas in our Waitrose stores."

The eight shops identified for closure include four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.

The spokesperson added: "All of these shops were financially challenged prior to the pandemic. Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years – and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse – we do not think the performance of these stores can be substantially improved.

"We expect 60% to 70% of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future. Nearly 50% of our customers now use a combination of both store and online when making a purchase.

"John Lewis home delivery is still available to customers in Chester, offering named or next day delivery, standard five-day delivery and next day Click & Collect.

"Within driving distance from the shop, customers can collect their John Lewis purchases from two Waitrose Click & Collect points, including Waitrose Chester, 27 Co-op Click & Collect points and can shop with us at John Lewis Liverpool.

"If redundancies are confirmed, every effort will be made to find affected Partners new roles.

"Partners who cannot or choose not to remain with the Partnership will also have access to a unique Retraining Fund, which will contribute up to £3,000 towards a recognised qualification or course for up to two years for any Partner with two years’ service or more.

"All Partners will have the option of a three month support programme with an outplacement specialist to help with CV writing and interview skills.

"In addition to statutory redundancy payments, Partners who have worked with the business for more than a year would be entitled to Partnership redundancy pay, which equates to two weeks’ pay for every year of service, regardless of age.

"Those with less than one year’s service who leave on grounds of redundancy would receive an ex-gratia tax-free payment equivalent to one week’s contractual pay.

"We will also provide a £1m Community Investment Fund, to support local projects and to be shared among the eight local areas where we propose to close shops."

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We appreciate this is very sad news for our Partners working at John Lewis Chester and our loyal customers here.

"When we first opened here we had every intention of making a positive contribution to the city for many years to come.

"If the proposal to close goes ahead, we will ensure we continue to give customers access to John Lewis through our online delivery and services as well as our nearby Waitrose Chester.”

John Lewis has been buoyed by soaring online sales in recent months but these were not sufficient to offset its decline in store sales as it tumbled to a £517 million pre-tax loss for the year to January.

It was the first loss in the group’s history dating back to 1864.