John Lewis is to lower the temperature in its department stores and Waitrose supermarkets will dim their lights in an attempt to bring soaring energy bills under control.
The staff-owned John Lewis Partnership, which includes Waitrose, said its energy bill threatened to exceed its budget by almost £20million.
Under the plan, Waitrose stores will operate at “half light” for the first two hours of trading Monday to Friday. The group also hopes to save energy by reducing temperatures in its buildings.
Internal communications seen by the Guardian showed that ‘without intervention’ the department store to supermarket group faces ‘an £18m energy cost overrun on our original forecast’ for the financial year financial ending at the end of January.
In an email to staff, the bosses said: ‘The forecast for next year is just as tough’ and that he is aiming for savings of £9million over the next 12 months through changes to the environmental parameters in stores and offices.
“By December 30, 2022, the temperature in our branches, offices and distribution centers will be reduced by 2 degrees and systems will go into eco mode,” the email reads.
At Waitrose, the brightness of the lights and the number of lights off vary from store to store. John Lewis conducts lighting surveys with the aim of “exploring further possibilities for reduction”. It is also looking at other options such as placing “night blinds” on refrigerators, to trap cold air inside and turning off unnecessary equipment and lighting in unoccupied areas.
The move comes as businesses across the country take a hard look at their energy costs amid soaring bills. The co-op dimmed the lights in 500 stores to save £4,000 per site, while electronics retailer Currys dimmed its screen TVs and turned off all other overhead lights.
Despite government intervention to support households and businesses with their energy bills, businesses still saw significant cost increases compared to last year. Stores and distribution centers are particularly energy-intensive because they have complex heating and cooling systems.
Asked about the plans, Neil Coleman, operations director for energy and innovation for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We have an ambitious plan to reduce energy consumption and aim to achieve net zero emissions. by 2035. With rising energy prices, we’re accelerating that.
“In addition to improving sustainability, reducing overhead helps keep prices low for customers. Small changes to lighting and heating are only part of our plan and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure they do not affect customers’ shopping experience. »
Waitrose said last month it planned to install heat pumps in all its supermarkets. It aims to replace gas boilers in its 332 stores before 2035. It has already installed five such units and plans to install 10 more next year. The pumps work by extracting heat from the outside air.
The grocer also plans to install “air curtain” devices, which direct airflows to keep the heat from leaving the stores and the cold from entering.
John Lewis signed an agreement in 2020 under which much of its electricity consumption was purchased in advance at fixed rates.
The partnership is looking to cut costs after plummeting to a loss of £99million in the first half, for which it blamed soaring inflation. He has warned that his annual staff bonus is under threat this year.
Its president, Sharon White, said the company needed “substantial reinforcement”, including strong Christmas trading, to “generate enough profit to share a partnership bonus with partners”.
Separately on Friday, the partnership announced it had reached a £500m deal with investment firm Abrdn to build 1,000 residential rental units, redeveloping three sites already owned by its Waitrose and eponymous retail chains .