John Lewis Partnership, the British department store and supermarket chain, has agreed to purchase the UK arm of ailing US etailer – America’s second largest online shop after Amazon.

Launched in the UK last March, UK is currently adding around 3,000 new customers weekly and in December was ranked the nation's fourth most visited etail site. Despite this, it was at risk of closure by its problem-beset American parent which last quarter lost $27.4 million.

John Lewis, a staff co-operative which operates twenty-five department stores across the UK and 136 Waitrose supermarkets, already sells a limited range of goods online, plus six cyber-shopping services run by its supermarket subsidiary. The group believes it has the formula for success, melding its own brand reputation with the’s know-how and technology.

Says JL director of trading Luke Mayhew: "We know that many of our customers already shop online, and with we will be moving quickly to create the UK's best online department store offer.”, which specialises in electronic goods, office supplies and gifts, will continue to trade under its own brand, as will John Lewis’ extant online ventures. Both businesses will be developed in parallel.

The deal is expected to be finalised by the end of February.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)