John Lewis is considering turning empty stores into private housing to help drive growth.
This follows and announcement from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month that empty shops could be turned into homes, cafes or offices without planning permission in order to “revive the high street”.
Here in Ireland, similar legislation was introduced in 2018 to allow vacant shops and the premises above them to be converted to residential properties without the need for planning permission.
In July, John Lewis announced that eight of their UK stores, which closed in March due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, would not reopen. The shops set to close are located in prime areas where housing is needed to meet demand, including Birmingham, Croydon and Watford.
Dame Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, told employees that the group is also considering closing some of their supermarkets.
Dame Sharon said the group is “exploring” opportunities to venture into private rented housing with third parties as it looks to “repurpose and potentially reduce” its shop portfolio.
“We expect to see continued rebalancing of stores, opening new ones where we see strong customer demand and potentially closing others where demand wanes.
“Our existing stores will be updated to meet customers’ expectations.”