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John Lewis to build homes for rent, launch savings accounts and buy back products

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
File photo dated 16/01/12 showing the John Lewis store in London. The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is to reveal the full impact of the mass closure of its department stores as partners will also eagerly await updates regarding its ongoing strategic review.
John Lewis plans to move 'beyond retail.' Photo: PA

John Lewis has set out a five-year plan to move “beyond retail,” including building homes for rent and offering new savings and insurance products.

The leading department store announced it would invest £400m ($518m) in new areas, and aim to make 40% of its profits from them by 2030. It is aiming for profits to reach £200m a year within the next two years, according to the plan published by John Lewis on Friday.

The new areas Britain’s biggest employee-owned business will expand in include:

  • Ramping up Waitrose’s delivery capacity from 55,000 orders a week before the pandemic to 250,000, with more partnerships like its current trial with Deliveroo, Another 25 Waitrose stores will now join the trial with the delivery company.

  • Working with developers to build new homes on up to 20 sites already owned by the partnership to provide a “stable income,” with planning applications expected for two sites next year in Greater London. “Entering the ‘build to rent’ market also allows us to furnish properties using John Lewis Home products and deliver Waitrose food,” it added.

  • A bid to quadruple the size of its financial services arm, with new products including savings, home insurance and retail credit.

  • Expanding an “outdoor living” arm, starting with consolidating existing horticulture, garden furniture and Waitrose Farm services before “considering new partnerships and acquisitions.”

  • Growing its rental, resale and recycle offerings, with new sustainability targets, building on 20 existing initiatives.

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“Our plan means the John Lewis Partnership will thrive for the next century, as it has the last,” said Sharon White, new chairman of the company, in a statement on its website.

Nina Bhatia, executive director of strategy and commercial development, said “We’re creating new inspirational services for customers where strong ethical values and peace of mind matter, like reusing and recycling products, personal savings and rented housing.”

The plans also detail other changes to come across the business. Waitrose will continue to focus on “value for money,” while John Lewis will relaunch its Home range and “introduce more affordable price points.”

Investment will be stepped up in virtual services like personal styling, home design, and its online Christmas shop.

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A focus on making the company “more sustainable and ethical” will see a net zero carbon target brought forward by 15 years to 2035, while Waitrose will seek to halve its own food waste as well as customers’ and suppliers’ food waste by 2030.

John Lewis will “do more to ensure our products can be loved for longer,” expanding current schemes to offer a ‘buy back’ or ‘take back’ option in all product categories by 2025.

The company will seek to recruit people from the care system, and pay all partners at least the “real living wage,” a voluntary measure based on living costs, when its profits exceed £200m.

But the pandemic has hit John Lewis bricks-and-mortar stores hard, with closures announced earlier this year and staff bonuses axed last month. The company is aiming to save £300m a year by 2022, “making our operations and head offices simpler and more efficient.”

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