John Lewis will begin to reopen its shops for customers as part of a gradual approach from Monday 15th June, starting with its Poole and Kingston department stores, followed by 11 others on Thursday 18th June.
Depending on the response from customers and staff to its new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the summer.
The decision follows the Government’s guidance earlier this week on easing restrictions for non-essential retailers.
Learning from the social distancing measures the partnership has taken in Waitrose shops, John Lewis plans initially to open just under a quarter of its shops as part of a steady, gradual approach with rigorous safety and social distancing measures in place. Branches selected to open have been chosen primarily because of their accessibility by car.
During the lockdown, the retailer says its website saw a significant uplift in sales.
Sharon White, partner and chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, comments: “The momentous events of the last few months have tested our resilience as a business, but our resourcefulness, innovation and the spirit of co-operation between partners has really shone through.
“It’s been heartwarming to see John Lewis partners stepping into different roles to support our Waitrose supermarkets and to keep johnlewis.com running and I’m proud of everything our partners across both our brands have done to help us get to this point.
"Our shops re-opening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. There’s an opportunity, now, for us, to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.
“However, while we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners.”
A raft of measures will be introduced, including customer service hosts to welcome customers into the store, caps on the number of customers entering, prominent social distancing signage, protective screens, the provision of hand sanitiser, and a safe, simple returns process - in line with Government guidance, John Lewis plans to separate returned stock from new or old stock for 72 hours.
Depending on customer feedback and how the first phase of openings progress, other initiatives which may be considered include virtual queueing, returns drop boxes and enabling Click & Collect from branch carparks.
The branches opening in the first stage are; (from 15th June) Kingston and Poole; (from 18th June) Bluewater, Cambridge, Cheadle, Cheltenham, High Wycombe, Horsham, Ipswich, Norwich, Nottingham, Solihull and Welwyn.