John Lewis to close UK department stores due to crisis

LONDON (AFP) – John Lewis, one of the biggest names on the British high street, is to temporarily close its 50 UK department stores because of the coronavirus crisis, it said on Saturday.

The employee-owned retailer will shut the stores on Monday for the forseeable future, the company said in a statement.

“The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority,” said John Lewis chairman Sharon White.

The group-owned supermarket Waitrose, which has more than 300 stores across the country, will remain open, she added.

White said the move was done “with a heavy heart” even though the department store’s website would remain operational.

The move comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that cafes, restaurants and pubs had to close to slow the spread of the virus, which has so far claimed 177 lives in Britain.

A sign at the entrance to the John Lewis store in Birmingham city centre shows their new opening hours. PHOTO: AFP