British retailer the John Lewis Partnership will accelerate the expansion of its online business, diversify beyond retail and seek more partnerships as it aims to recover profitability, it said today. 

Detailing a five-year plan to grow the employee-owned department stores and Waitrose supermarket group, Chairman Sharon White said she was targeting profit of £400m by year five.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hammered Britain's retail sector, leaving gaping holes on the country's main shopping streets and costing tens of thousands of jobs. The crisis has forced retailers to re-think their business models. 

The partnership will spend £1 billion to grow its online business and improve its stores, and is targeting efficiency savings of £300m a year by 2022. 

Its plan will see the department stores business become a 60-70% online retailer by 2025 from 40% before the crisis. 

It will diversify into product rental and resale, private rented and social housing and expand its savings and insurance offer. 

John Lewis will retain its "Never Knowingly Undersold" price pledge, though it may be modified next year. 

Waitrose's delivery capacity will grow to over 250,000 orders a week, up from 55,000 before the pandemic, and to attract more customers it plans more partnerships like its recent trial with Deliveroo. 

"We've seen five years of change in the past five months and Waitrose and John Lewis have responded with great agility", Sharon White said.

"Our plan means the John Lewis Partnership will thrive for the next century, as it has the last," she added.

Last month the partnership reported a first half loss of £635m after writing down the value of its department stores by £470m.