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Harrods and John Lewis will cut hundreds of jobs as coronavirus crisis impacts UK retail

Both Harrods and John Lewis have detailed their intentions to cut hundreds of UK jobs in response to the coronavirus crisis.

According to reports, Harrods is planning to cut as much as 14 per cent of its 4,800 strong workforce, while John Lewis Partnership has stated that some of its shops will not reopen following the lockdown measures, and warned that it may not pay a bonus to its employees this year.

In an email sent to Harrods employees, managing director, Michael Ward, said the pandemic and rules on social distancing are “having a huge impact on our ability to trade, while the devastation in international travel has meant we have lost key customers coming to our store.”

Ward described the job cuts as a necessity, and suggested that it will take time and a “drastic improvement in external conditions for our business to recover and return to growth.”

The department store is far from alone in these troubled waters of UK retail. This week the UK shopping centre owner Intu confirmed it was entering into administration, spelling an uncertain future for some of its biggest outlets, including Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Lakeside in Essex. Intu has been hampered by a £4bn debt that caught up with the retail centre owner over the coronavirus lockdown period.

Lockdown measures across the UK forced shops to shut for three months in an effort to contain the virus. Lower footfall and demand have been held to blame for the drop in profits for many High Street names. Many retailers also face deferred rent and tax payments, as well as higher costs of running stores safely.

John Lewis chairman, Sharon White, has told employees that there would be job losses following the closure of some stores and one of its London offices, in a letter first reported by the Evening Standard newspaper. John Lewis, which also owns the Waitrose grocery business, has reopened 22 of its 50 stores and announced plans to open 10 more on Wednesday, including its flagship on London’s Oxford Street.

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