May 20, 2020
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John Lewis plans phased reopenings, will take it slow

May 20, 2020

Department store chain John Lewis’s blueprint for reopening its shops is still a work in progress even though the potential opening date is looming early next month. And it has recognised that reopening will also be a learning curve.

John Lewis

Operations chief Andrew Murphy said that if the crisis “has taught us anything, it is that we simply cannot get everything right, and embrace the fact that there is uncertainty”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he said “we are going to have to accept that we are going to have to call some things wrong and be in the mindset of being ready to ‘course correct’ - we’re not perfect.” 

This underlines how uncertain the situation still remains in the UK, especially with no specific date having yet been given for when fashion shops and department stores can reopen, although the government has said that non-essential stores could be allowed to start opening from June 1.

The John Lewis plan has “a minimum of three” stages, Murphy said, adding that it takes around four weeks to get an individual store running properly. Yet it had been ready to reopen some this month, if allowed, before the government said June 1 was the earliest date.

The company will prioritise around 20 stores that have large car parks as that will mean both staff and customers will be able to keep public transport use to a minimum when travelling to the shops. And the newspaper also said that the retailer might introduce private buses for staff if public transport is unsatisfactory. 

Murphy also said that he doesn’t want John Lewis to lead the way in terms of reopenings, even though that would boost its sales. He’d rather play it safe and get it right.

It’s likely that larger stores will open later (although this could change) and all stores will have screens at tills, while the locations are also being deep cleaned. 

Murphy also said that while the company has learnt from having its Waitrose supermarkets open during the crisis, day-to-day operations at John Lewis are different.“Department stores are much more complex typically than a supermarket, which tends to be repeating a few processes over and over and over again,” he told the newspaper.

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