John Lewis has reported an 84% online sales surge since mid-March, but revealed total sales are down 17% for the same period.
The high-street retailer has warned of further job cuts and a sales slump in the months ahead, despite the recent boost to its online operation.
The sudden jump in online sales was driven by soaring demand for domestic items and those related to working from home, such as technology, food preparation, exercise equipment and children’s entertainment.
John Lewis Partnership reported this was not enough to offset the impact of its physical store closures, and confirmed it has furloughed 14,000 staff, who will receive full pay until the end of May.
In a worst-case scenario, which would see sales decline between April and June, and weak sales thereafter, the retailer said full-year sales could drop 35% at John Lewis (excluding Waitrose sales).
However, in a letter to staff, John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White said: “Our short-term trading has been significantly affected, principally because of the closure of all 50 John Lewis branches.
“The Partnership has been trading for nearly a century. It has survived a World War and bombings, economic crashes and crises. Thanks to you, we shall also come through Covid-19 and emerge stronger.”
At the start of the financial year the John Lewis Partnership had just over £900m cash and investments in the bank, with access to a further £500m of undrawn committed bank facilities.
Last month, the John Lewis Partnership announced it would undertake a strategic review of the partnership as it seeks to strengthen its core retail business and to develop new services outside retail.
Sharon White has said this will be accelerated, with the aim of completing it in the summer.
She added: “It will seek to take account of changes in consumer behaviour to come out of the pandemic, such as a more pronounced shift to online and a desire to shop in more sustainable ways.”