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Graham Awards


Never Knowingly Let - John Lewis moves into Build To Rent

Tenants who want to pop downstairs to the shop may soon be able to do so - thanks to the John Lewis Partnership.

The company is exploring the possibility of converting some of its retail estate to private rented housing as part a strategy to regrow the business in the wake of the Coronavirus. 

In a letter sent to 80,000 John Lewis and Watrose staff, the chairwoman of the company - Sharon White - says converting some stores or parts of stores to housing is under consideration.


“As we repurpose and potentially reduce our shop estate, we want to put excess space to good social use. We are exploring with third parties the concept of new mixed-use affordable housing” White wrote in her letter.

It's likely that any housing scheme would be in the Build To Rent category; it is not yet known whether John Lewis would manage the completed units.

The company - which uses the catchphrase 'Never Knowingly Undersold' - announced earlier this month that eight stores closed because of the pandemic would not be reopening.

In addition to its retail premises, most of which are freehold, the partnership also owns owns a 2,800-acre farm in Hertfordshire, four hotels and warehouses for logistics facilities.

One of its former stores, in Southsea, is already being converted into leisure use - as a hotel and cinema complex - but none has so far been identified as possible private rental locations.

  • Algarve  Investor

    Seems sensible. Finds a use for land/buildings that could become derelict and neglected, and could also provide front of house jobs for those John Lewis employees who have lost their jobs because of the store closures triggered by the pandemic.

    As the high street continues to decline, alternative uses for buildings and land will need to be sought so we don't fall into the trap once again of many deserted brownfield sites across the country - as was the case when many industrial buildings no longer had a purpose anymore.

    I appreciate conversion isn't easy or cheap, but seems better than doing nothing.


    Converting retail or office space into residential is a complete nightmare, the layout and construction of the buildings, placing of lift shafts etc make conversion very expensive and often leads to flats being compromised in shape and design.

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    • 31 July 2020 09:08 AM

    Will John Lewis be taking on UC tenants.......................!!!!!!!!!!???????


    NO, Paul, their slogan will be "Never knowingly underlet".

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    • 31 July 2020 18:56 PM

    Ha ha wonder what Shelter and GR would say?


    In a Dalak voice: "Donate! Donate! You will DONATE!"

  • girish mehta

    Going by the new projects coming on the market which the government is encouraging to build .
    These building will be matchboxes houses and flats where the investor will charge maximum rent and try to get maximum return for their investment. The type of tenants suitable will be on benefit. They will get housing allowance from the government and work minimum hours to get maximum benefit. Any one working won't be able to rent these places. Not fit for families to live . they are ok for single or couple and all you want to do is go to the gym , live on fast food and one person pay their wages to live in it
    Hope John Lewis will be different and follow their company ethos , only time will tell.

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    • 01 August 2020 21:49 PM

    About time developers returned to the Parker Morris standards.

    Perhaps if Govt recognised developers who built to those standards would have some sort of Govt incentive or recognition for doing so.

    With any capitalist strategy the developers will attempt to max out sites.


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