British retail giant John Lewis is planning to enter the residential property market by converting their department store car parks and other sites across the UK into 10,000 rental homes over the next few years.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns having dealt a severe blow to the traditional retail business model, John Lewis has been forced to close several department stores and lay off employees. The entry into the property market is part of a new growth strategy to take the employee-owned business group in a new direction, specifically the rental housing market.

With this move, the company also aims to address the housing shortage in the country, ensure a stable, long-term income for the business, generate employment opportunities and support local communities.

John Lewis operates 34 department stores, seven warehouses and 331 Waitrose stores across the country.

The company is planning their first developments in south-east England with 7,000 of the initially planned 10,000 rental homes to be built on sites within their existing property portfolio – these may include department store car parks, above Waitrose supermarkets or next to distribution centres.

The build-to-rent homes will range from studio flats to four-bedroom houses with John Lewis acting as the residential landlord. Future plans include building these homes on entirely new sites.

The rental homes will have a concierge service as well as a Waitrose store in the vicinity. Tenants renting these homes will also have an option to rent the furniture from John Lewis.

John Lewis is looking to submit planning applications in early 2022.