John Lewis at home

UK department store chain John Lewis will not reopen eight of its 42 stores after the current lockdown ends in April, putting more than 1,400 jobs at risk (The Financial Times £).

Department stores in York, Peterborough, Sheffield and Aberdeen will close and ‘at home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells will also shut (The Guardian).

John Lewis’ decision to close another eight stores is a “hammer blow” to town and city centres, MPs and councillors said, as local campaigners attacked the move and launched petitions to save jobs (The Telegraph).

The radical move puts 1,465 jobs at risk, with the group saying it hopes to be able to redeploy as many staff as possible (The Mail).

The closures are on top of the eight shops that did not reopen when restrictions were lifted last year, which led to about 1,300 redundancies (The Times £).

Towns pay the price for John Lewis’s short-sighted and hurried expansion, The Telegraph says. “Eight more store closures show how keen chairman Sharon White is to shift sales online - but she may have mistimed her high street retreat.”

“Shellshocked cities face huge retail challenge,” reads the headline in The Times (£) examining the impact of John Lewis closures and the longer term future post-Covid. “The impact of losing shops that attract footfall to shopping centres will be huge.”

One of Britain’s largest fund managers is to spurn Deliveroo’s blockbuster float because of concerns over the rights of its delivery riders (The Times £). David Cumming, chief investment officer at Aviva Investors, which has £365bn assets under management, will not buy shares in Deliveroo’s initial public offering for several reasons, and workers’ rights “is one of them”.

Aviva, one of the UK’s biggest asset managers, said it would not be buying shares in what is expected to be the biggest float in a decade because the firm does not pay riders the minimum wage or offer holiday and sick leave (The Mail).

Deliveroo riders have raised concerns about low pay as the company prepares for an £8.8bn flotation that will hand its founder, Will Shu, a £30m payout plus shares worth more than £500m (The Guardian).

The Times (£) says in a comment pieced that Deliveroo’s IPO may whet the City’s appetite for individual investors.

UK meat producers face up to £120m a year of extra long-term trading costs and the loss of at least a fifth of their total export trade because of post-Brexit requirements on shipments to the EU, the industry has warned (The Financial Times £).

UK inflation dropped in February to 0.4% as the third coronavirus lockdown brought with it a wave of discounting by clothing retailers and secondhand car dealers, according to official figures (The Guardian).

Clothes prices plunged last month as lockdown-stricken retailers ramped up discounting in an effort to entice customers (The Telegraph).

The steepest fall in clothing prices in 12 years drove down inflation unexpectedly last month as lockdown put an end to retailers’ normal post-winter sale plans (The Times £).

The Horizon IT scandal at the Post Office, condemned yesterday in the Court of Appeal as an instance of “appalling and shameful behaviour”, has thrown the state-owned business £307m into the red (The Times £).

Economic activity expanded at its fastest pace in seven months in March as businesses received a rush of new orders in anticipation of the easing of lockdown (The Times £). The flash IHS Markit/CIPS UK composite purchasing managers’ index rose from 49.6 to 56.66 — considerably higher than the 51.1 forecast.