Cheadle among first John Lewis stores set to re-open

The John Lewis store in Cheadle will be among the first of the retail giant’s 50-strong estate to re-open next month.

In line with the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail sites, many stores will be able to open for business from June 15.

John Lewis today outlined its plans to prepare to re-open its stores, which will see its Kingston and Poole stores open on June 15, followed, on June 18, by its Cheadle site, along with stores in Bluewater, Cambridge, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, Horsham, Ipswich, Norwich, Nottingham, Solihull and Welwyn.

Prior to opening, each shop will undertake a four-week re-opening preparation programme which includes counting stock, replenishment, preparation of systems, merchandising, deep cleaning, the introduction of social distancing measures, partner (staff) training and final pre-opening checks.

The retail group said that, depending on the response from customers and partners to the new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the Summer.

No date has been set, so far, for the re-opening of the group’s Chester, Liverpool or Trafford stores.

Learning from the social distancing measures the partnership has taken in its Waitrose shops, John Lewis plans initially to open just under a quarter of its shops as part of a steady, gradual approach with rigorous safety and social distancing measures in place.

Branches selected to open have been chosen primarily because of their accessibility by car.

John Lewis Partnership chairman, Sharon White, said: “The momentous events of the last few months have tested our resilience as a business, but our resourcefulness, innovation and the spirit of cooperation between partners has really shone through.

“It’s been heartwarming to see John Lewis partners stepping into different roles to support our Waitrose supermarkets and to keep running and I’m proud of everything our partners across both our brands have done to help us get to this point.

“Our shops re-opening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. There’s an opportunity, now, for us to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.

“However, while we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners.”

Among the measures to ensure customer and staff safety within John Lewis outlets will be the introduction of a ‘customer service host’ assigned to welcome customers into the store and answer any questions while managing customer numbers, queues both at entrances and busy areas of the shop and explain to customers what changes they might see in store.

The number of store entrances will be reduced and there will be limits on the number of customers entering stores.

There will also be protective screens at checkouts and areas of the shop where two metre social distancing cannot be achieved between customers and staff, while rigorous and frequent cleaning will be introduced.

Hand sanitisers for customers to use will be available at all entrances and there will be a new contactless payment limit of £45.

Depending on customer feedback and how the first phase of openings progress, other initiatives which may be considered include virtual queueing, returns drop boxes and enabling click & collect from branch car parks.