John Lewis to cut shopping space at its Oxford Street store
Retail giant’s application said drop in footfall was behind proposed changes to its ‘spiritual home’ in the West End
02 November, 2020 — By Tom Foot
JOHN Lewis has been given the green light to allow it significantly to reduce shopping space in its landmark store in Oxford Street.
The retail giant had applied to the council for “dual use” of the third to eighth floors of its “spiritual home” for either office or shopping.
The application had said falling footfall in the West End was behind its plans but the Covid-19 pandemic had also created a need for “flexibility” in its buildings.
At a planning meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Guthrie McKie said: “I don’t want to be critical of John Lewis, one of the finest companies in Britain and one of the best employers. My concern is what message this sends to the retail community?
“The message it might send is that the retail industry is not doing enough to recover Oxford Street from its perilous position. Doesn’t John Lewis have office accommodation in Victoria? Why didn’t they develop that space? I’m not opposed to the scheme, it seems sensible to me. But there are a few questions.”
The crisis facing the West End businesses shows no signs of abating as the run-up to Christmas begins.
In July, John Lewis said 1,300 jobs were at risk nationally due to the planned closure of eight stores, and that a further 124 jobs were on the line with the closure of four Waitrose stores.
Supporting the application was David Wood, an asset manager at John Lewis, whose statement was read out to the committee after he “dropped off” the online planning meeting on Tuesday.
It said: “The proposals are about securing the sustainable, flexible and long- term use of our store in Oxford Street.
“The building is our spiritual home but has a somewhat disjointed layout. It makes it difficult for us to respond to our customers’ needs.
“Over 35,000 square metres of floor space will remain in retail use, the equivalent of almost nine acres if laid out flat.
“The food hall in the basement floor by Waitrose will remain unaffected. This application represents the next step to underpin our long-term presence in the heart of Oxford Street.”
Cycle bays are being introduced at the basement of the building for people who work there and this piqued the interest of Westminster’s cycling champion, Cllr Jim Glen, who is also the committee chair.
He said: “I think it ensures it continues to be a landmark store, allowing them the flexibility to use their site in a way that would ensure their continuing trading profitably on that site, in their partnership model.”