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John Lewis Partnership acquires distribution centre to support rapid online growth

British department store retailer, the John Lewis Partnership, is to open a one million square-foot (eds. 93,000 sq m) warehouse in Milton Keynes that will employ 500 people as it tries to meet surging demand for online shopping.

The new facility at Fenny Lock, which the John Lewis Partnership has leased from Tesco for 11 years, will be John Lewis’s second biggest distribution centre after nearby Magna Park.

In addition, John Lewis has signed a three-year lease on a 300,000 sq ft (eds. 27,871 sq m) distribution centre in Bardon, Leicestershire, which it will start using this month to help deal with the busy Black Friday discount period in late November. That site will be run by the specialist Clipper Logistics.

The John Lewis Partnership’s investments come as online orders at the staff-owned group have risen to 60% of overall sales, from 40% before the coronavirus pandemic.

A string of high street lockdowns prompted by government efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 have accelerated the shift to online buying as more people have tried it out while stuck at home.

The new John Lewis Partnership warehouse jobs come after the department store’s parent group, which also owns Waitrose, cut thousands of jobs in its stores and head office in the past two years – last month alone, 1,000 store jobs were cut across Waitrose and John Lewis. 

The group has also closed 16 department stores, including major outlets in York, Peterborough and Sheffield, with the loss of 2,500 jobs.

Andrew Murphy, the executive director of operations for the John Lewis Partnership, said the Fenny Lock site would be used for technology, fashion and small home items.

The centre is to begin working for John Lewis next summer and will take on 500 staff over the next two years and invest in further automation.

Murphy said the warehouse represented “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”.

John Lewis has committed to investing €175 million in online growth over the five years to 2025, including €58.3m this year.

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