John Lewis Partnership has made the “difficult decision” to temporarily close all 50 John Lewis shops as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The retailer has announced the stores will shut when opening hours finish on Monday but has assured the online part of its business will operate normally. 

It will be the first time in the firm's 155-year history that the business will not open to customers. 

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Chairman Sharon White said: “The welfare of our customers, communities and partners is always our absolute priority.

“While it is with a heavy heart that we temporarily close our John Lewis shops, our partners will, where possible, be taking on important roles in supporting their fellow partners, providing critical services in Waitrose shops and ensuring our customers can get what they need through, which is seeing extremely strong demand.

“The partnership has traded for over 155 years, during which time we have faced many difficult periods, including two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis."

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Waitrose shops and its online store will also be unaffected by the decision. 

The retailer assured that "wherever possible" partners will be redeployed to provide additional support to Waitrose and

Ms White added: “On every occasion, thanks to our customers and partners, and the long standing relationships with our suppliers and stakeholders, we have emerged stronger.

"We all need to continue to support each other and our strength and resilience will be tested. But they will not be broken.”