John Lewis has said it is preparing for a phased reopening of its department stores after the Government said non-essential shops can reopen from 15 June.
The company did not confirm a precise opening date but said its preparations to reopen sites have been “informed” by social distancing measures at its Waitrose supermarkets, which have traded throughout the pandemic.
John Lewis said it would reduce the number of entrances and cap the number of shoppers in its stories as part of new safety measures.
It also said it would have “customer service hosts” who will be assigned to welcome customers, answer questions and manage queues in busy areas of shops.
It is also reducing the availability of customer services, such as beauty services, which will no longer offered, while fitting rooms will also be shut until further notice. This morning Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said that customers should expect a different experience when the enter re-opened retail stores and said people would not be able to try on clothing or test beauty products.
In a statement, John Lewis Partnership said: “Our plan sees us open our shops on a phased basis to enable us to test the changes we are introducing and ensure the best and safest customer and partner experience.
“The safety of our customers and partners will govern everything we do and we are prepared to readjust our plan and make changes as we go to make sure we get it absolutely right and continue adhering to evolving Government guidelines.”
It is expected that those stores based in out of town retail parks with plenty of parking will be prioritised for early opening as those offer the best opportunity for safe social distancing.
Last month, the retail group warned John Lewis annual sales could plunge by 35% in a worst-case scenario as a result of the outbreak.
Sources close to the company also said in April that it had started discussions on which department stores should keep their doors closed permanently, with it “highly unlikely” that all 50 stores would reopen.