Protesters have targeted the opening of the John Lewis at home store in Chichester, over an industrial dispute surrounding national job cuts to a supply firm.
Members of the Unite union demonstrated outside the retailer’s new site in Portfield Way, angered by the loss of 140 posts at MMP, which produced packaging for John Lewis’ partner company, Waitrose.
According to protesters, their key concerns were over redundancy terms which they believed were unfair and at odds with both John Lewis and Waitrose policy on treatment of its employees.
Despite the demonstration on April 5, shoppers packed out the new store, which has created 140 jobs. It experienced such high demand that both its own car park and that of neighbouring retailer Sainsbury’s were overflowing.
Mick Duncan, organiser of the protest said: “We want John Lewis to pick up the phone and get people their jobs back. We’re holding demos all over the country and will be back every week until something is done.
He added: “We hope to take advantage of the publicity of the Chichester store opening to bring our cause to the public.
“It is unfair that John Lewis and Waitrose continue to stock products associated with the company. We want them to get on the workforce’s side, to speak out and get people their jobs back.
“The store manager of John Lewis has been very polite and helpful. We just hope our message gets through and something is done.”
John Lewis declined to comment on whether either it or Waitrose would be responding towards those protesting – who have now pledged to continue their action every week until the situation is resolved.
In spite of the disturbance from the demonstration, John Lewis at home branch manager Claire Dunkason believed the opening had been a resounding success.
Praising the response to the store, she said: “The past few days have been just fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception from our customers and we hope to see this continue as we establish ourselves further in the local community.
“The strong trading figures over the bank holiday weekend have shown that John Lewis at home Chichester has got off to a great start and we look forward to seeing how this progresses over the coming weeks.
“All departments showed very strong sales but it seems that the audio and TV department was particularly popular with customers in Sussex.”