John Lewis, a prominent name in the UK retail landscape, has undertaken significant measures to streamline its operations, resulting in the shedding of 3,800 jobs over the past year.

This move is part of the company’s vigorous cost-cutting strategy, aiming to slash a total of £900m from its expenses.

According to recent filings, the John Lewis Partnership, which oversees both department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, saw its workforce dwindle to 70,500 employees by the end of January, down from 74,300 a year prior.

This downsizing facilitated a £26m reduction in staffing costs over the year.

The decision to forgo the cost-of-living bonus for staff in 2023, a departure from the previous year’s practice, further bolstered the retailer’s financial position. Additionally, the reduction in headcount was primarily driven by attrition, with management opting against replacing departing staff.

A cost-cutting move

The relentless pursuit of cost savings comes amidst a broader effort by the retail giant to slash an additional £600m from its expenses, on top of the £300m already cut in recent years. Despite these austerity measures, the company’s financial outlook has shown signs of improvement, with John Lewis returning to profitability for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, as disclosed in March.

Waitrose, a subsidiary of the partnership, experienced the majority of the staffing changes, particularly following a restructuring of shift patterns last autumn aimed at fostering greater flexibility among employees. This included the elimination of night shifts at select stores and offering voluntary redundancy packages at others.

Statistics from the latest filings reveal that the average number of employees in Waitrose stores decreased to 49,600 over the year, down from 52,700 in the previous period. Overall, the John Lewis Partnership now employs approximately 10,000 fewer staff than it did in early 2020.

Looking ahead, John Lewis anticipates further reductions in its workforce, with reports suggesting management is contemplating as many as 11,000 redundancies. While the company has not specified a target for the number of roles to be cut, it has indicated that certain positions may become redundant under its turnaround proposals.

What does this mean for their employees?

The recent announcement of the closure of a Waitrose delivery warehouse, putting over 500 jobs at risk, underscores the ongoing restructuring efforts. Despite objections from affected staff regarding revised redundancy packages, John Lewis remains resolute in its decision, offering one week’s pay per year of service in addition to statutory payouts.

In response to inquiries, a spokesperson for John Lewis emphasised the company’s commitment to delivering exceptional customer service and highlighted investments in training and development to ensure a differentiated customer experience.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.