Markets poised for Brexit update, as new Covid restrictions loom – business live

More from our retail correspondent Sarah Butler, following the John Lewis announcement earlier this morning.

John Lewis is to become a major landlord, aiming to build homes for rent at 20 sites it owns around the country as part of its new strategy to rebuild profits to £400m within five years.

The company said building homes would offer it a new kind of income alongside other ideas including financial and digital services as future profits from retail were unlikely to be sufficient for it to pay staff at the level it wanted.

The retailer has outlined a huge array of ideas under chairman Sharon White and her newly appointed heads of the John Lewis department stores and Waitrose.

She has confirmed plans to ditch the department store’s long-held Never Knowingly Undersold price pledge for a new promise to be finalised next year and to enable shoppers to recycle or reuse more products and is spending £1bn on expanding further online.

It is a bold effort to try and move a business under pressure into new markets. Others might have chosen to stick to the knitting in the department stores and run them as effectively as possible – while rivals such as Debenhams and House of Fraser shrink and potentially disappear.

Can John Lewis learn new tricks? The company’s move into online retail paid off in the past – that was brilliantly executed. Can they do the same with house building, gardening and insurance during tough economic times? We’ll see.

JD Wetherspoon has slumped to a £95m annual loss as sales plunged during the coronavirus lockdown, with the pub chain’s outspoken founder renewing his criticism of the UK government’s restrictions to control the pandemic, my colleague Mark Sweney writes.

The chain, which reported a £95m profit in its previous financial year, said revenues slumped by 30.6% to £1.26bn as its pubs were hammered by the lockdown.

The pre-tax loss includes £60m of exceptional one-off costs, including £29m Covid-related costs for stock losses, staff costs and equipment.

The pub chain said it is in consultation to reduce the 1,000 staff at its pubs at six UK airports by 450, which it announced last month. It is also reducing head office staff numbers by 108.

Confirmation of the cuts come a day after the pub and brewer Marston’s announced it was axing 2,150 jobs, the biggest cuts in the sector since the pandemic began. Last week, Greene King said it is cutting 800 jobs and closing 79 pubs and restaurants.

Wetherspoons said since 4 July 429 employees have tested positive for coronavirus, 1% of its 43,000 total staff. The company said that is in line with the 0.9% rate testing positive in the total UK population and less than the 1.5% Amazon reported among its US employees.

Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said:

If pubs were, indeed, ‘centres of transmission’ it might be expected that infection rates would be higher among employees than those of either the general population or companies like Amazon.

John Lewis Partnership commits £1bn to online push

Introduction: Investors wait for Boris’ signal on Brexit talks