The John Lewis Partnership says it is to create 500 new jobs as it takes control of a massive distribution centre to meet an expansion in online sales.
The owner of the John Lewis department store chain and Waitrose supermarkets said it had signed an agreement with Tesco to lease a one million sq ft site at Fenny Lock in Milton Keynes for 11 years.
It said the move reflected “growing customer demand for online orders” via the John Lewis website, as store operations have been disrupted by COVID-19 lockdowns.
The partnership said online sales now accounted for more than 60% of John Lewis total sales – up from 40% pre-pandemic.
It said that the new warehouse, to be operational next year, would be its second largest of 12 distribution centres nationally – behind its sprawling site at Magna Park just four miles away.
The investment marked a rare piece of good news for staff – known as partners – under boss Dame Sharon White who has cancelled its famous bonus and closed under-performing John Lewis stores across the group to invest in online capabilities amid the stampede for digital orders from retailers nationally.
It has resulted in the loss of almost 4,000 jobs across the group in just over a year – the latest cull just last month via a shake-up of store management structures.
However, it is understood that hundreds of roles that were axed have been saved through redeployments – with an update on the figures expected next month.
John Lewis also said on Wednesday that it had signed a three-year lease for a smaller warehouse at Bardon in Leicestershire that it would start to use in time for Black Friday orders later this year.
This deal, the employee-owned company said, would not result in any new jobs as the site was operated by a third party.
Andrew Murphy, the partnership’s executive director of operations, said of the new Fenny Lock site: “This one-of-a-kind distribution centre represents a fantastic opportunity to power the continued growth of Johnlewis.com, ensuring that we can keep pace with customer demand – both for our products and for our wide range of fulfilment and delivery options.
“We will invest in the site’s automation capability to support future growth and, over the next two years, we will recruit 500 new partners to work at the distribution centre, which we plan to start operating during summer 2022.”