UK retail group John Lewis is exploring plans to build residential accommodation on top of 20 Waitrose stores around the country, following another difficult year for the department store and supermarket giant.
The plan is part of a new strategy unveiled by chair Sharon White to revive the business in the face of struggling sales, particularly across its 42 surviving department stores, after eight closed this summer. John Lewis expects to make its first full-year loss in 2020 following three years of falling profits.
The group, which also owns 338 Waitrose supermarkets, including 65 'little Waitrose' convenience stores, believes it can generate 40% of future profits from areas including financial services and housing over the next decade. It is also looking into launching garden centres.
John Lewis plans to kick-off its residential strategy with Waitrose sites in Greater London, where it will retaining ownership of the apartments once built. The group said it wanted to build affordable and private housing.
White said: 'We’ve identified 20 sites we own that could be used to benefit local communities by providing quality and sustainable housing while providing a stable income for the partnership. We’ll make planning applications for two of these in the new year in Greater London.
'Entering the ‘build to rent’ market also allows us to furnish properties using John Lewis Home products and deliver Waitrose food. We’re a landlord already at three of our properties so this is an obvious extension for us. And we’re now talking to developers and investors who can help us achieve our ambitions.'
Israel Moskovitz, CEO of London commerical property manager Avon Group, whose clients include Tesco, Sainsbury's and Next commented: 'The move by John Lewis to combine residential and commercial accommodation at 20 of its sites across the country provides us with a telling insight into the future of the property sector post-Covid.
'It is clear that fresh ways of thinking about the use of space are needed in the property sector to respond to Covid-19, in both the residential and commercial areas. By uniting the energies of the residential and commercial sectors, along with the construction sector, it appears that this new approach could hold the keys to the future of the sector.'