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John Lewis hints at further redundancies

The retailer has not announced targets for job losses

John Lewis has hinted that it will continue to make job cuts in 2024, despite reporting a return to profit.

The retailer reported pre-tax profits of £56 million, compared with a £234 million loss the year before, but said that job losses are inevitable in the coming years.

John Lewis announced that it had cut a few hundred roles in 2023 as part of efforts to save £88 million, and that it was considering further redundancies in the coming year to continue cutting costs.

John Lewis chair, Dame Sharon White, told PA news agency that there was no target for the next round of job reductions.

The retailer is set to improve pay for its employees, with around 45,000 staff receiving a 10% pay rise in April 2024.

In January 2024, John Lewis announced plans to cut up to 11,000 jobs out of 76,000.

This follows redundancies at retailer The Body Shop, which cut 800 jobs in February 2024, and the social media firm Snap, which announced plans to cut approximately 10% of its staff in the same month.

Read more: Number of UK workers worried about job loss doubles

Garin Rouch, founder of organisation development consultancy Distinction Consultancy, told HR magazine that employers should not set targets for redundancies.

He said: "Employers shouldn't set job loss targets. These arbitrary numbers often result in the organisation losing essential capabilities which will slow down their recovery and negatively impact workforce morale.

“It's much more effective to work with employees to achieve cost savings, which may come from places other than the payroll

“There is a lot of waste in organisations that can be eliminated without losing people.”

The Office for National Statistics reported this week that the number of vacancies in the UK fell from 43,000 in December 2023 to 908,000 in February 2024.

Workforce solutions provider, ManpowerGroup reported this week (12 March) that there is a slight increase of 23% in the employment outlook for the second quarter of 2024.

Read more: Vacancies fall while real pay growth strengthens

Its survey of 2,100 UK employers found that 43% of large employers [with 250 or more employees] are looking to hire entry-level applicants and 39% are looking to backfill roles due to employee departures.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, told HR magazine that retail businesses are having difficulty supporting staff amid the cost of living crisis and rise of inflation.

He said: “Many businesses in the retail sector are struggling to support their staff and reshape their business to changing consumer demand and the need to keep inflation down.

“It’s no surprise that firms are making changes. But there are opportunities out there for those who sadly lose their jobs.”

Carberry added that while the retail market is weak, there are vacancies for staff to fill.

He said: “The jobs market has weakened over the past year, but retail has been weaker than most other sectors for a long time now. 

“Despite this, overall vacancy levels remain high with opportunities that would be suitable for workers with the skills retail develops, and business surveys suggest a more positive summer.”

HR magazine contacted John Lewis, but it declined to comment.