John Lewis store in Cambridge’s Grand Arcade is safe as eight closures confirmed
Cambridge’s John Lewis store is not among the eight stores the retailer will close, it has been confirmed.
The Grand Arcade department store will reopen on April 12, providing the government’s roadmap out of lockdown proceeds as planned.
However, the department store in Peterborough is among the eight due to close, along with those in Aberdeen, Sheffield and York, and four At Home stores in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells.
The closures, announced today (Wednesday, March 24), put 1,465 jobs at risk and come eight months after the shutters came down on eight others.
There had been concern over the Cambridge store after the retailer announced earlier this year that it was planning a new round of closures.
Speculation from “industry insiders” in the Telegraph suggested major stores like those in Cambridge, Norwich and Liverpool, could be “under threat” as it negotiated with landlords.
But the Cambridge store, which has anchored the Grand Arcade since 2007, is believed to be one of its better performers.
In a letter last month, the city’s MP, Daniel Zeichner, had sought reassurance from the partnership’s chairman, Dame Sharon Michele White, writing: “John Lewis is a store that is loved by many in the city. We need certainty for your staff, and Cambridge needs John Lewis to continue to trade in our city to help secure future prosperity as we rebuild as lockdown eases.”
Mr Zeichner described the decision to keep the Cambridge store open as “excellent news”.
“This is good news for staff, shoppers and Cambridge as a whole to help secure future prosperity as we rebuild as lockdown eases,” he added.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, the Labour leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “Thank you to everyone who signed our petition and helped save John Lewis. This is great news.
“I know from the spending members of my family just how often they like to go into John Lewis and value the variety and quality products on sale. Fifteen years ago, the council worked closely with John Lewis to ensure there was a modernised, anchor store in the heart of the city and that the legacy of Robert Sayle would live on.
“Throughout the three lockdowns I, and my Labour councillor colleagues, have worked hard to ensure that as many retail jobs were protected and now we are making the city centre as welcoming and safe as possible for 12 April.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit like a cork coming out of a bottle, when shops do reopen. There is pent-up demand there. I’m so pleased John Lewis will be a part of this, otherwise we would have been left with a huge hole to fill.”
Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, said: “Whilst this is clearly good news for Cambridge it does reflect the fragility of the high street at this very difficult time, now more than ever we need to shop local, support our local city centres and ensure they remain vibrant for the future.”
The remaining 34 John Lewis shops in England will reopen on April 12, subject to government guidance, while the Glasgow store will open on April 26 and Edinburgh store on May 14.
The John Lewis Partnership, which also includes Waitrose, said operation of its Waitrose distribution centre in Leyland, Lancashire, will be transferred to XPO Logistics.The 436 Waitrose staff at the site will be transferred to XPO.
While the business has been buoyed by soaring online sales in recent months, they were not sufficient to offset its decline in store sales amid the pandemic.
It suffered a £517million pre-tax loss for the year to January - the first loss in the group’s history, dating back to 1864.
For the first time in 68 years, its partners will not receive an annual bonus. That is not expected to return until 2022-23, as the partnership had warned it expects its financials to get worse in the current financial year.
Last year, the company announced separate plans to axe around 1,500 head office jobs to help cut costs.
The move was intended to help the business save around £50million as part of wider plans to reduce total costs by £300million.
Cambridge’s history with the business goes back much further than the opening of the Grand Arcade store. Robert Sayle - which was bought by John Lewis - has a history in the city dating back to 1840.