John Lewis is reportedly looking at offering co-working and serviced office space in some of its stores. The plan, claimed to still be at an early stage, suggests the retail giant might partner with an operator or launch the service under its own brand.

As reported in PropertyWeek, the retailer’s major city locations are being looked at first. It’s been rumoured that one of the first stores to be considered is at Newcastle’s Intu Eldon Square shopping centre. The idea of creating flexible office centres was just one of the potential initiatives John Lewis was exploring to fill excess space.

A cost assessment on the flexible office proposal has been planned and the company is set to make a decision on whether the idea is viable in early 2018. Due to consumer habits increasingly leaning towards online shopping, many large department store operators have been left with surplus space. John Lewis has one of the largest online businesses of any department store chain, accounting for around 40% of its total sales.

The company has already taken steps to use excess space in its stores by bringing in popular café and restaurant brands. The practice has previously been tested by several big retailers, and has proved partnerships have been effective in driving footfall.

John Lewis’ move to consider incorporating offices within their stores comes at a time when flexible office providers are acquiring record amounts of space.

Nick Riesel, managing director of office rental agency FreeOfficeFinder, comments: 'We've seen a 22% increase for serviced and co-working enquiries since the referendum in 2016, so it makes sense that a company with a number of large high street locations with surplus space would want to capitalise on a growing market'.

At the same time as looking to capitalise on the extra space in their stores, John Lewis continues to open at new locations. It has several department store openings lined up for this year including the Westgate Oxford development.

John Lewis currently operates 48 John Lewis shops across the UK, 34 department stores, 12 John Lewis at home and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2, in addition to its online store.

At the beginning of 2017 operating profits slumped 31% despite a 4.5% rise in sales in the previous six months as the company invested heavily in equipment to support its online business and increasing pay for staff. The new managing director, Paula Nickolds, who took the helm in late January, has launched a series of unprecedented changes that are set to continue in the near future.