Department store John Lewis is set to become a residential landlord as the pandemic-battered company finds new business avenues.
The employee-owned retailer said it plans to build rental homes above or beside Waitrose supermarkets around the UK which will be furnished with stock from the John Lewis stores while tenants will be able to have Waitrose food delivered to their door.
The chairman, Sharon White, an economist who joined the business in February this year, said John Lewis would back new business ideas with £400m of investment.
The new ideas are part of a strategy to revive the business whose finances have been further squeezed by the national lockdown.
In addition to its retail premises, most of which are freehold, the partnership also owns a 2,800-acre farm in Hertfordshire, four hotels and warehouses for logistics facilities.
A former store in Southsea has already been converted into a hotel and cinema complex.
White said:“We’ve identified 20 sites we own that could be used to benefit local communities by providing quality and sustainable housing while providing a stable income for the Partnership.
We’ll make planning applications for two of these in the new 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.
We’re a landlord already at three of our properties so this is an obvious extension for us. And we’re now talking to developers and investors who can help us achieve our ambitions.”