John Lewis & Partners has announced it will phase the reopening of its department stores, only opening two stores on 15 June.
Sofie Willmott, Lead Retail Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view on this news;
“John Lewis & Partners’ plan announced today to open just two of its 50-strong store portfolio on 15 June demonstrates that introducing stringent health & safety measures will not be easy, even for major players. Department stores will be particularly difficult to monitor given the size of the locations and although John Lewis plans to open an additional 11 stores later the same week, it has not yet given opening dates for the remaining 74% of its store estate, highlighting that it is proceeding with caution.
“Other retailers are likely to follow their lead and only open a small number of stores initially, both to gauge the consumer demand and to test their safety procedures. There will be teething problems as retailers find out which measures work and are adhered to by customers, but even if processes are generally successful, we are unlikely to see all shops reopening any time soon as demand remains subdued. Although the government has sanctioned non-essential store openings from mid-June, overall retail capacity will remain below pre-crisis levels for the foreseeable future as social distancing in public spaces becomes the new normal.
“Retailers will also be concerned about driving up their costs if they cannot balance them with sales. With many store staff being placed on furlough leave and rents being negotiated with landlords, retailers will be wary of reopening too many stores too quickly if the demand does not warrant it.”