John Lewis has announced it is permanently closing eight of its stores, putting 1,300 workers at risk.
The retailer said it had to “secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs”.
Department stores in Birmingham and Watford will not reopen as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
At Home stores in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth will also shut down, as will travel sites at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras.
The move comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures aimed at safeguarding jobs amid the downturn, including a one-off £1,000 payment to employers for every furloughed employee retained to the end of January 2021.
John Lewis had warned in March it could close shops as a plunge in profits forced it to cut staff bonuses to their lowest level in almost 70 years.
It said the eight stores affected were already “financially challenged” even before the pandemic struck.
However, Covid-19 had caused customers to move more quickly towards online shopping and away from stores.
John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said: “Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.
“However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers, however and wherever they want to shop.”
Ms White said John Lewis would do everything it could to keep on as many people as possible.
The John Lewis Partnership is owned by its staff – known as partners – who usually receive a bonus each year.
This year, staff bonuses were set at 2%, the lowest since 1953 when it paid no bonus.
Profits at the partnership dived by 23% last year to £123m – the third year in a row that profits have fallen – as it continued to struggle with the slowdown in consumer spending.
Despite the chancellor’s back-to-work bonus announced on Wednesday, millions of workers could still end up out of work, analysts and unions have warned.
Unions said job losses would “gather pace” while economists predicted “a rapid rise in unemployment”.
They warned that incentives to save jobs were not large enough to persuade bosses to keep workers.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak himself has warned of “a significant impact on unemployment and on job losses”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Is unemployment going to rise, are people going to lose their jobs?’ Yes, and the scale of this is significant.
“We are entering one of the most severe recessions this country has ever seen. That is of course going to have a significant impact on unemployment and on job losses.”
He also told the BBC he was “sorry” for not helping “everyone in exactly the way they would have wanted”, adding he would not be able to protect “every single job”.
John Lewis is the latest in a long line of companies to have made cuts during the pandemic. Other lay-offs announced include:
- Up to 5,000 job cuts at Upper Crust owner SSP Group
- Up to 12,000 jobs at British Airways
- Up to 700 jobs at Harrods
- About 600 workers at shirtmaker TM Lewin
- 1,900 jobs at Café Rouge-owner Casual Dining Group
- 1,000 jobs at Pret A Manger
- 1,700 UK jobs at plane-maker Airbus
- 1,300 crew and 727 pilots at EasyJet
- 550 jobs are going at Daily Mirror publisher Reach
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