SOUTHAMPTON'S branch of John Lewis is not among those that will open as soon as the lockdown on shops eases.

The chain’s stores in Poole and Kingston will open on Monday, June 15, the first day non-essential shops are allowed to open, with 11 branches following on Thursday June 18.

But Southampton’s store at Westquay is among the branches that will open later in the summer, depending on the response social distancing measures.

John Lewis Partnership said: “Depending on the response from customers and partners to our new ways of operating with respect to social distancing, more shops will open throughout the summer. The decision follows the government’s guidance earlier this week on easing restrictions for non-essential retailers.”

It said it was opening just under a quarter of its stores as part of a “steady, gradual approach with rigorous safety and social distancing measures in place”.

Branches had been selected mainly because of their accessibility by car, it said.

“The business will undertake an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of each of the operational changes it implements during this initial phase of reopening, making adjustments as it goes to ensure the best and safest customer and partner experience possible,” the company said.

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The momentous events of the last few months have tested our resilience as a business, but our resourcefulness, innovation and the spirit of cooperation between Partners has really shone through.

“It’s been heartwarming to see John Lewis Partners stepping into different roles to support our Waitrose supermarkets and to keep running and I’m proud of everything our partners across both our brands have done to help us get to this point.

“Our shops reopening is a sign of hope as we begin to find our new normal. There’s an opportunity, now, for us, to come back stronger as a business, and offer the safety and reassurance that customers will want.

“However, while we have experience of social distancing in our Waitrose shops, we will need to establish new ways of working in our department stores. We are taking this cautious approach to be able to learn as we go and to make sure that our shops are as safe as they can possibly be for our customers and partners.”

Social distancing measures in place will include:

• A “Customer Service Host” to welcome customers and answer any questions while managing customer numbers, queues and busy areas.

• Reducing the number of entrances.

• Caps on the number of customers entering stores.

• Prominent social distancing signs.

• Protective screens at checkouts and areas of the shop where two metre social distancing cannot be achieved between customers and staff.

• Limits to the number of customers using escalators and lifts.

• Frequent cleaning.

• Hand sanitiser at entrances.

• Social distancing in back of house areas.

• The new contactless payment limit of £45.

• A new returns process, with returned stock being quarantined for 72 hours.

• Limiting additional customer services. "Close contact" beauty services will not be offered and cafes and fitting rooms will be closed until further notice.