John Lewis to close UK department stores due to crisis

John Lewis, one of the biggest names on the British high street, is to temporarily close its 50 UK department stores because of the coronavirus crisis

John Lewis, one of the biggest names on the British high street, is to temporarily close its 50 UK department stores because of the coronavirus crisis, it said Saturday.

The employee-owned retailer will shut the stores on Monday for the forseeable future, the company said in a statement.

"The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority," said John Lewis chairman Sharon White.

The group-owned supermarket Waitrose, which has more than 300 stores across the country, will remain open, she added.

White said the move was done "with a heavy heart" even though the department store's website would remain operational.

The move comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that cafes, restaurants and pubs had to close to slow the spread of the virus, which has so far claimed 177 lives in Britain.

Earlier this month, John Lewis cut its annual staff bonus to its lowest level in more than 50 years owing to a drop in profits.