John Lewis

The majority of the reduction will be in John Lewis or in head office roles, per the Times. Source: John Lewis

The John Lewis Partnership has confirmed that it plans to reduce staff numbers, as part of its plan to return to profitability.

Over the weekend, The Guardian reported that senior figures at the partnership had discussed proposals to reduce headcount across the business by 11,000 over the next five years as part of its wider cost-cutting programme.

The figure followed what had been widely reported revelations that the partnership planned to halve the total redundancy pay offered to partners, as part of a reshuffle of core work agreements.

“The John Lewis Partnership has a plan to return to profit, which involves investing heavily to enhance our customer offer, technology, stores and becoming more efficient,” a Waitrose spokeswoman said in a statement.

“This is working and performance is improving, but as we have already announced, that sadly means reducing the number of partners we need in our business.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss details and our partners will be the first to know about any changes,” the spokeswoman added.

Outgoing chairman Sharon White and JLP CEO Nish Kankiwala are aiming to trim up to £900m from the business by 2028, from the original deadline of 2026, after conceding that high inflation meant the original turnaround plan would need to be delayed by a further two years.

White had previously suggested that reversing the £234m loss posted by the business would involve a further reduction in staff numbers following two recent waves of job cuts, which saw the removal of a layer of middle management in stores in 2021, as well as a later trimming of 1,500 head office roles. 

The Times reported that the majority of the envisioned reductions would be focused within the John Lewis and head office divisions. It would partly involve not replacing staff who left the business naturally.

Waitrose has been consulting with supermarket workers separately about redistributing the hours they spend in store, as part of a wider store renovation programme dubbed ‘Simpler Shops’. It’s not understood how many roles have been affected as part of its implementation, but it is thought some workers will see their hours changed as a result. Waitrose insists that overall, their pay and hours should not change. 

The news comes alongside a separate report in the Times that the partnership had raised an additional £260m through the completion of a sale and leaseback agreement, and by taking on additional bank debt.

The investment house M&G has confirmed that it had completed a deal to buy and lease back 11 Waitrose stores in December, though it declined to confirm specific details.

Wokingham and Exeter were two of the stores named by The Times. Waitrose has signed 20-year lease agreements as part of the deal, which was advised on by CBRE, and is worth £129m, the Times reported.

Waitrose declined to comment on either the property or the banking deal.