John Lewis could reduce size of Oxford Street store by up to 40 per cent

John Lewis could reduce size of Oxford Street store by up to 40 per cent

John Lewis has drawn up plans for a massive reduction in the size of its Oxford Street store if shoppers continue to stay away from the West End.

The staff-owned business has asked Westminster council to approve plans that allow it to cut trading space by almost 40 per cent, the Standard has learned.

Documents show that the third, fourth and fifth floors — which house departments such as kitchens and bathrooms, the Christmas shop, toys and children’s books and TV and audio — would be converted into offices to rent out.

This would leave tills on only the basement, ground, first and second floors, while the largely unused sixth, seventh and eighth levels would also be turned into offices. The plan comes two months after chairman Dame Sharon White announced the closure of eight “financially challenged” outlets including stores in Birmingham and Watford.

John Lewis’s property adviser CBRE said the partnership’s bosses “have been considering their options for this building for some time in light of the issues surrounding retailing, but in particular Oxford Street.

“The challenges confronting retailers are more pronounced given the Covid-19 situation, but it is important to stress that JLP are not leaving Oxford Street, and see the flexibility of a dual/alternative use as providing them with the opportunity to invest in the retail store for its long-term future.”

It said that if the conversion takes place the remaining store floor space would still exceed that of Oxford Street rivals House of Fraser and Debenhams.

Nevertheless, such a major loss of space at one of London’s best known shopping destinations would represent a fresh blow to the prestige of the battered West End.

John Lewis has had a presence on Oxford Street since 1864. The partnership has been struggling to stay in profit amid intense competition on the high street. Results for the first half of the year being announced tomorrow are expected to reveal a big fall into the red for the department stores. According to the React News website John Lewis would continue trading while the works take place on the upper floors.

John Lewis said the reconfiguration of the store at 300 Oxford Street would enable a more efficient use of space but said it remained a “hypothetical” option for now.

A spokesperson said: “Oxford Street is our largest and oldest shop and has a surplus of non-selling space compared to our newer shops. We have therefore made a planning application for the upper floors of the shop, to give us greater flexibility on how we use this space more efficiently in future, with the potential to have office space at the top of the building.

“While no decisions have been made, any plans would look to further improve our customers’ experience.”

Paul Souber, head of Central London retail at property agent Colliers International said: “Incorporating both retail and office space into a mixed-use development can be a massive property value-driver not only from an investment and financial perspective but also in helping to build a successful long-term vibrant community where people can work and shop.”

Tom Whittington, retail and leisure research director at Savills, said: “The rightsizing of retail floorplates is something we’ve seen for some time but we expect it to gather pace over the coming months, particularly given the challenges facing the department store market.”