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15 September 2021, 09:03 | Updated: 15 September 2021, 11:30
John Lewis Partnership is planning to hire thousands more workers ahead of Christmas as it gears up for a busier - and more challenging - festive season.
The company behind John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets said it was recruiting 7,000 temporary roles - 2,000 more than last year - as well as 550 permanent driver and warehouse jobs.
It comes at a time when supply chain and worker shortages are taking their toll across the economy, prompting fears that some people may struggle to buy presents for their children this Christmas.
JLP is aiming to lure workers - amid record UK job vacancies - by offering free canteen food and drink for those on shift from 4 October to 31 December.
Pay rates, though, are roughly in line with previous years.
Big retailers often take on thousands of temporary staff ahead of Christmas.
The partnership says more workers are needed this time because it expects a much busier season for its shops than last year, while its online operations have expanded sharply over the course of the pandemic - and it also acknowledges the impact of logistics and hiring issues being seen across the economy.
Its temporary roles will include supermarket assistant, night shift, and online delivery driver work at Waitrose's 331 stores and its website, as well as sales and merchandising positions at John Lewis.
The 550 permanent roles are for full-time driver and warehouse jobs across distribution centres and customer delivery hubs for the Waitrose and John Lewis online brands.
"We will offer free food and drinks to partners and temporary workers from 4 October to 31 December to help ensure we can attract the help we need," the partnership said.
Nikki Humphrey, people director at JLP, said: "We know that as the first Christmas after lockdown, customers will want to make it really special, and we're throwing everything we can into helping them celebrate - our festive team will have a crucial role to play."
The company will also launch Christmas stores in shops from October, alongside 100 new Christmas products, and will use a new 300,000 square foot distribution centre in Bardon, Leicestershire, to support demand ahead of Black Friday.
The recruitment drive comes after the partnership axed nearly 4,000 jobs and closed a number of John Lewis stores during the pandemic.
(c) Sky News 2021: John Lewis and Waitrose owner hires thousands more temporary workers ahead of Christmas