Britain's John Lewis Partnership said on Wednesday it has signed a deal to lease a 1 million square food distribution centre from supermarket group Tesco to help meet growing online demand, with the creation of 500 jobs.
The employee-owned group, which runs John Lewis department stores and upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose, said the warehouse in Milton Keynes, north west of London, would be second in size to its 2 million square foot campus four miles away.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, its online sales have grown from 40% to more than 60% of the department stores' total sales and John Lewis Chairman Sharon White has said it could reach 70%.
John Lewis plans to start operating the warehouse, which is under an 11 year lease, during summer 2022.
The group plans to invest £50 million ($ 69 million) in the department stores online operation in 2021 and a further more than £100 million in online growth over the course of its five-year strategy.
However, the new jobs will only partly offset recent losses as last month John Lewis said it planned to cut 1,000 management roles.
That followed a March announcement about the permanent closure of eight stores, hitting 1,465 jobs, and the closure of eight stores in July last year, affecting 1,300 positions.
'One-Of-A-Kind Distribution Centre'
Partner and executive director of operations for the partnership, Andrew Murphy, said, "This one-of-a-kind distribution centre represents 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.
“We will invest in the site’s automation capability to support future growth and, over the next two years, we will recruit 500 new Partners to work at the distribution centre, which we plan to start operating during summer 2022."