John Lewis closing Birmingham’s Grand Central store in huge blow to city
John Lewis says it is permanently closing its Birmingham store at Grand Central in a bombshell blow for the city.
The department store has been closed above New Street Station since the March lockdown was introduced.
But now the retailer says it will never reopen alongside seven of its other stores including its At Home outlet in Tamworth, Staffordshire, putting 1,300 workers at risk.
The news has been greeted with dismay from business leaders and politicians including West Midlands Mayor Andy Street who called it a “dreadful mistake”.
Grand Central says John Lewis still holds a “significant” lease and officials say they want to broker fresh talks over the store’s future.
The centre’s owners Hammerson, which also manages the Bullring, saw its share price fall five per cent this morning following the news.
The John Lewis Partnership said the decision was made to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.
Prior to the pandemic, the eight outlets were already “financially challenged” but customers have moved away from stores and towards shopping online faster as a result of coronavirus, it said.
The group estimated that between 60% and 70% of John Lewis sales will be made online this year and next, compared with 40% before the coronavirus crisis.
Around 1,300 of its workers, known as partners, will now enter consultations over the cuts.
The company said that, if redundancies are confirmed, “every effort” will be made to find new roles where possible across the group.
The shift towards online has seen the company double capacity at its Waitrose supermarket arm, while it also plans further investment in John Lewis’s online business.
However, it stressed that John Lewis shops have a “vital role” within the business.
John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said: “Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.
“However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop.