By Kristy Dorsey

The gloom over the high street has deepened with news that retailers Boots and John Lewis will between them shed more than 5,000 jobs.

The pharmacy chain said it expects to cut 4,000 jobs to mitigate what Boots described as the “significant impact” of Covid-19 on its business. John Lewis is permanently closing eight of its stores, putting 1,300 staff at risk.

Boots’ restructuring will affect about 7% of its workforce, and will also result in the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores. In addition to customer-facing roles, those in its support office in Nottingham will be particularly affected.

As an essential retailer, Boots was able to keep a large number of its stores open throughout lockdown. Even so, retail sales during the past three months tumbled by 48% in the face of the pandemic.

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The impact was more pronounced in its opticians business, with sales plunging by 72% compared to the same period last year.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said the company will do “everything in our power to provide the fullest support” for those affected.

“The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth,” he said.

The John Lewis stores due to close are all based in England, and were all “financially challenged” prior to the pandemic.

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Approximately 1,300 workers will enter consultations over the job cuts. If the redundancies are confirmed, John Lewis said it will make “every effort” to find new roles where possible across the group.

The group estimates that as much as 70% of John Lewis sales will be made online this year, compared to 40% before the coronavirus crisis. The shift towards online has seen the company double capacity at its Waitrose supermarket arm, with plans to invest further in the John Lewis online offering.

“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners,” chairwoman Sharon White said.

“However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop.”