John Lewis to turn HALF flagship Oxford Street store into OFFICES

3 weeks ago 7

Retail giant John Lewis has moved a step closer in its plans to convert a large chunk of its famous Oxford Street store into offices -  becoming the latest big name chain to edge away from the High Street.

Nearly half of the firm's flagship store on could be turned into office space as the embattled department store chain tries to stem its losses and return to profit.

The John Lewis Partnership, which runs the department store chain and the Waitrose grocery arm, secured conditional planning permission from Westminster City Council last night.

The move, if given the full go-ahead, will be yet another blow to the already bruised British High Street - which was struggling before the pandemic and has since seen huge falls in footfall.

Twenty Debenhams stores closed over lockdown, including one at Westfield in White City, London, where plans have been lodged to turn another department store, House of Fraser, into office space.

Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer also closed 17 of its stores last year, many in High Streets, while announcing plans for 7,000 more job cuts earlier this year. Some of the closed stores are currently being redeveloped, including one which is being converted into a pub.

The latest move by John Lewis represents a growing trend among big British retailers, who traditionally take up large units along High Streets and in shopping centres, and the owners of the buildings, who are increasingly looking to turn the empty units into flats or offices. 

John Lewis' flagship department store is on London's Oxford Street. Bosses have submitted plans to turn around half of the store into office space

The John Lewis Partnership, which runs the department store chain and the Waitrose grocery arm, secured conditional planning permission from Westminster City Council last night 

The unanimous decision by the council’s planning sub-committee, made on the basis of exceptional circumstances, could see up to 45 per cent, or 28,135 square metres, of the flagship shop floor converted to offices

The basement, ground and lower two floors will remain as retail areas, while the floors three to eight will be turned into office space

The ground floor, where customers traditionally enter, will stay the same and will remain retail, though an area towards the north west will be used to access the office space

One of the floors, shown here in the plan, the fourth floor, will be one of the areas converted from retail space into new office space

It's not just John Lewis which is making moves to convert retail space to office space. Plans have been approved to convert the former House of Fraser store at the West field Shopping centre in White City into office space

Under the plans, about two-thirds of House of Fraser’s shop floorspace - equivalent to around a full-sized football pitch, will be turned into offices, leaving space for two retail units

A small section of the office space will also be let at a 35 per cent discount to entice start-up companies, plans voted through by Hammersmith and Fulham Council's planning committee earlier this year reveal

John Lewis announces cuts proposal as it reveals plans to expand its property business

The group behind retail giants John Lewis and Waitrose has warned of more cuts as it aims to save up to £300million-a-year, while also becoming a major housing landlord, bosses have today announced.  

The John Lewis Partnership says it wants to streamline its head office and operations, but expand into the property market, as part of a new five year growth strategy.

Bosses aim to triple the company's annual savings from £100million to £300million each year by 2022 - a move which they hope, combined with growth, will push profits to £400million by 2025.

The announcement comes months after the group revealed plans to shut eight John Lewis stores, with the loss of 1,300 jobs.

It also announced closure of four Waitrose stores, in a move which will see 124 jobs axed, and told staff they would not receive a bonus for the first time since 1953 - after the group dived to a £635million pre-tax loss for the six months to July.

But alongside planned cuts, the group also announced a number of investment plans, including proposals to expand into the property business - an idea already explored by furniture giant IKEA.

The company had said it is pushing forward with plans to expand into housing, highlighting that it has identified 20 potential sites which could be used for private housing.

The sites have not yet been made public, however the company said the new homes could be built above or beside stores or on other land it owns.

As well as some freehold stores, it owns a 2,800-acre farm in Hertfordshire, another farm in Leckford, Hampshire, four hotels and various logistics facilities.

Under the plans, the homes would be furnished with products from John Lewis department stores.

The group already has three sites and is aiming to make planning applications for two sites in Greater London in the new year, according to reports.

Earlier this month, John Lewis announced plans to become a major landlord, by converting stores or parts of them into houses.

The retailer, which is already struggling in a rapidly evolving retail environment, has been hard hit by the pandemic and announced earlier this month it wants to save £300million each year by 2022.

It suffered a £635million pre-tax loss for the first six months to July following a £470million write down on its stores.

The John Lewis Partnership says it wants to streamline its head office and operations, but expand into the property market, as part of a new five year growth strategy.

Bosses aim to triple the company's annual savings from £100million to £300million each year by 2022 - a move which they hope, combined with growth, will push profits to £400million by 2025.

The announcement made last month came after the group revealed plans to shut eight John Lewis stores, with the loss of 1,300 jobs. It also announced closure of four Waitrose stores, in a move which will see 124 jobs axed.

But alongside planned cuts, the group also announced a number of investment plans, including proposals to expand into the property business - an idea already explored by furniture giant IKEA.  

The company had said it is pushing forward with plans to expand into housing, highlighting that it has identified 20 potential sites which could be used for private housing.

The sites have not yet been made public, however the company said the new homes could be built above or beside stores or on other land it owns. This includes freehold stores, a 2,800-acre farm in Hertfordshire, another farm in Leckford, Hampshire, four hotels and various logistics facilities.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, a think tank urged the Government to consider undertaking a 'nationwide programme of re-purposing city and town centres' in a bid to find new uses for the rows of empty High Street shops across the country.

Such an effort could create more than 800,000 new homes to address the UK's ongoing housing crisis, The Social Market Foundation (SMF) argued.

The SMF report came after the Government unveiled plans to tear up planning red tape to allow boarded up shops and abandoned offices to be turned into homes without the need for full planning permission - encouraging developers to convert the unused sites.

While John Lewis has already shown its intention, others such as Marks and Spencer have increasingly withdrawn from high streets, looking instead towards retail park-based M&S Food Halls.

In August, the retail giant announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs - one of the largest cuts announced in terms of jobs losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 210,000 jobs have been reported since March.

Last year Marks and Spencer closed 17 stores as part of a proposed five-year plan to shut more than 100 stores by 2022.

Earlier this year, planning permission was given to Amber Taverns to convert one of Marks and Spencer's now-closed stores, in Bridlington, East Riding, into a pub, according to Hull Live.

Meanwhile, another former Marks and Spencer store in Stockton, County Durham, was set to go up for sale for around £300,000 in June, according to the Northern Echo. 

Earlier this year, planning permission was given to Amber Taverns to convert one of Marks and Spencer's now-closed stores, in Bridlington (pictured left), East Riding, into a pub, according to Hull Live. Another former store in Stockton (pictured centre), County Durham, was set to go up for sale for around £300,000 in June, according to the Northern Echo. The closed Newark store (pictured right), in Nottinghamshire, was bought by Newark and Sherwood District Council for £540,000. The council had planned to redevelop the unit and convert it into four small retail units, according to the Newark Advertiser

The closed Newark store, in Nottinghamshire, was bought by Newark and Sherwood District Council for £540,000.

The council had planned to redevelop the unit and convert it into four small retail units, according to the Newark Advertiser.

High street's vacant shops 'should be converted into 800,000 new homes', think tank says 

Ministers have been urged to convert the nation's growing number of vacant shops into housing as a think tank warned the coronavirus crisis will change shopping habits forever.

The Social Market Foundation today called for the Government to undertake a 'nationwide programme of repurposing city and town centres'.

Such an effort could create more than 800,000 new homes to address the UK's ongoing housing crisis, it argued.

The SMF report comes after the Government unveiled plans to tear up planning red tape to allow boarded up shops and abandoned offices to be turned into homes without the need for full planning permission.

The coronavirus crisis has had a massive impact on the retail sector with thousands of jobs already lost and business chiefs warning there will be more redundancies and shop closures to come.

The SMF think tank said: 'COVID-19 is catalysing changes to our working and consumer habits.

'This is likely to have a significant impact on town and city centres. Rather than letting our high streets fade into obscurity, politicians can create an ambitious vision of repurposed urban space and reinvigorated communities.'

The think tank said that 'emerging evidence suggests that lockdown will change consumer and business behaviour on a long-lasting basis'.

All of the units mentioned above are not developments being carried out by Marks and Spencer. 

In May, the retailer announced plans to accelerate its proposals for redevelopment of large city centre stores on prime sites.

However, an M&S spokesperson today told MailOnline there were 'no further updates' to be shared at this time.  

Meanwhile, fashion retailer Next today announced a larger-than-expected profit hike, despite falling sales.  

The fashion brand is expecting pre-tax profit for the year to be £365m, which is £65m higher than it forecast last month. Online sales has been labelled as the key behind its success.

The chain also saw good demand for home items, while its retail park stores reportedly outperformed its high street ones.

The clothing giant has not announced any store closures, while a spokesperson said there were no formal plans to move more of its business to out-of-town retail parks - where around half of its 500 stores are currently located.

Debenhams, which this year went into administration for the second time in 12 months at the start of the pandemic, announced earlier this year that 20 of its stores would not reopen after lockdown ended.

One store which has closed is the Debenhams in London shopping centre Westfields, in White City.

The store did not reopen after lockdown after the shopping centre reportedly refused its request for another round of rent reductions.

In June, it was reported by Retail Gazette that bosses at the shopping centre were developing plans for a co-working space as part of a wider strategy to provide 'more mixed-use experiences'.

As of yet, no formal plans have been announced for the former Debenhams store. Debenhams declined to comment. It is understood the retailer has handed back the unit and will not play a part in any potential redevelopment.

MailOnline has contacted Westfields for a comment, but has not received a response so far.

Meanwhile, in June, plans were approved to convert the former House of Fraser store at the shopping centre into office space.

The plans were submitted by the centre's owners, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

The plans were submitted by the centre's owners, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. The House of Fraser store reopened earlier this year and is still currently open. 

The plans for the new office space at Westfields at the site of the House of Fraser store comes after Debenhams announced it would not reopen its store at White City

Fashion chain Next beats summer sales expectations with rise of 2.8% 

Fashion giant Next has exceeded expectations and reported a 2.8 per cent in sales over the summer despite grappling with the economic shocks from lockdown.

Strong trading in children's clothing and homeware products saw the high street chain make up for a slump in sales of formal wear, which fewer are buying because of coronavirus restrictions on mixing. 

The company said it now expects pre-tax profits for the year to reach £365million - £65million more than first expected.

But bosses are braced for sales numbers to dip as tighter curbs loom in the run-up to Christmas and are forecasting an 8 per cent fall. 

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Next said: 'The sales performance by product category remains very similar to the second quarter, with home and childrenswear over-performing while demand for men's and women's formal and occasion clothing remains weak.' 

The number of discounted product sales fell 12.3 per cent against a year ago, although Next explained this was due to fewer customers in stores and a focus in its warehouses of full priced goods.

Sales outperformed particularly strongly in the final two weeks of August, as the Government was encouraging workers back to offices and before the Rule of Six was introduced.

They fell sharply in September, but regained momentum in October and beat sales from a year earlier.

Online sales remain strong, jumping 23.1 per cent in the three months to October 24, although store sales continued to be weak - down 17.9 per cent during the period. 

Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said that Next managed to weather the economic shocks to the sector through its online shopping and diversity of products.

He told MailOnline: 'Next has got more than just clothing and can lean against other sections such as home ware.

'It has also benefited from years and years of online investment and has a really impressive delivery system.'  

The House of Fraser store reopened earlier this year after it closed during the coroanvirus lockdown.

The department store is still currently open, having been converted into a temporary Harrods outlet store

Under the plans, about two-thirds of House of Fraser’s shop floorspace - equivalent to around a full-sized football pitch, will be turned into offices, leaving space for two retail units.

No operator has been lined up to run the office space as of yet. Westfield is considering running the operation itself if it can't find a suitable provider, according to Estates Gazette. 

A small section of the office space will also be let at a 35 per cent discount to entice start-up companies, plans voted through by Hammersmith and Fulham Council's planning committee earlier this year reveal.

Meanwhile, it's not just larger retail units which are being redeveloped, smaller ones are too.

Last month the Times reported that, McCabe Builders, through its receiver BDO, has applied to change the use of shops to apartments at Prospect Hill, in Finglas, Dublin.

The company is planning to create eight apartments, six of which will occupy former shops. They will also converted a former medical centre into two more houses. The properties will be a mixture of sizes, the largest being three bedroom homes.

The push to convert empty shops into houses comes after Boris Johnson used a speech in Dudley at the end of June to promise the 'the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War'.

Changes were brought forward to make it easier for business owners and developers to 'repurpose' premises that are no longer needed and bring them back into use.

In a further move, families are being offered a new fast-track system allowing them to add up to two storeys to their homes, while ministers were reportedly drawing up presumption in favour of development in certain designated areas

Campaign groups have hit out at the reforms, that include plans to have dedicated areas for building, with one group saying government plans could lead to 'thousands of tiny, poor quality "homes" in unacceptable locations like industrial estates.'

A report by the Times last month found tiny studio flats proposed under the new rules - some of which measured 160 square feet - about half the area needed for a home to be eligible for a mortgage.

The paper found that in five of the flats, the only external light came through a narrow sidelight next to the door. 

One person who lived in them, named Chloe Gray, a 20-year-old on Universal Credit told the Times: 'I have been here for about a year now but I will be moving out in October as it is just too small.

'I moved here from home because I needed my independence and this was all I could afford. It really does feel like living in a pod.' 

How more than 210,000 job losses have been revealed by major UK firms since lockdown began 

Some 210,781 job losses have been announced by major British employers since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March as follows:

October 7 - Greene King - 800 October 6 - Virgin Money - 400 October 6 - Vp - 150 October 5 - Cineworld - 5,500 (many cuts likely to be temporary) September 30 - TSB - 900 September 30 - Shell - 9,000 worldwide September 29 - Ferguson - 1,200September 22 – Wetherspoon – 400 to 450September 22 – Whitbread – 6,000September 18 – Investec – 210September 15 – Waitrose – 124September 14 – London City Airport – 239September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450September 4 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,150September 3 – Costa – 1,650August 27 – Pret a Manger – 2,800 (includes 1,000 announced on July 6)August 26 – Gatwick Airport – 600August 25 – Co-operative Bank – 350August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650August 18 – Bombardier – 95August 18 – Marks & Spencer – 7,000August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250August 14 – River Island – 350August 12 – NatWest – 550August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwideAugust 11 – Debenhams – 2,500August 7 – Evening Standard – 115August 6 – Travelex – 1,300August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130August 5 – M&Co – 380August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at riskAugust 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at riskJuly 31 – Byron – 651July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office rolesJuly 28 – Selfridges – 450July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at riskJuly 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseasJuly 22 – Mears – fewer than 200July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at riskJuly 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at riskJuly 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseasJuly 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at riskJuly 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at riskJuly 14 – Vertu – 345 July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at riskJuly 9 – General Electric – 369July 9 – Eurostar – unknown numberJuly 9 – Boots – 4,000July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at riskJuly 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at riskJuly 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at riskJuly 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at riskJuly 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500July 1 – Harrods – 700July 1 – Virgin Money – 300June 30 – Airbus – 1,700June 30 – TM Lewin – 600June 30 – Smiths Group – 'some job losses'June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000June 24 – Jet2 – 102June 24 – Swissport – 4,556June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head officeJune 19 – Aer Lingus – 500June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwideJune 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500June 11 – Bombardier – 600June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500June 11 – Centrica – 5,000June 10 – Quiz – 93June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny's) – 3,000June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545June 10 – Everest Windows – 188June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwideJune 8 – Mulberry – 375June 5 – Victoria's Secret – 800 at riskJune 5 – Bentley – 1,000June 4 – Aston Martin – 500June 4 – Lookers – 1,500May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – 'hundreds' of jobsMay 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwideMay 26 – McLaren – 1,200May 22 – Carluccio's – 1,000May 21 – Clarks – 900May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown numberMay 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600May 19 – Antler – 164May 15 – JCB – 950 at riskMay 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwideMay 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwideMay 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwideApril 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800April 29 – WPP – unknown numberApril 28 – British Airways – 12,000April 23 – Safran Seats – 400April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwideApril 21 – Cath Kidston – 900April 17 – Debenhams – 422March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at riskMarch 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk
Read Entire Article