John Lewis plans to build a residential property portfolio featuring new build rental homes above or beside Waitrose supermarkets around the UK.
The move forms part of a wider strategy to boost profits for the employee-owned retailer.
Aside from the new housebuilding project, the group, which is aiming to rebuild profits to £400m within five years, is also planning to sell home insurance.
The new strategy aims to generate 40% of future profits from areas such as financial services and private and affordable housing by 2030.
First planning applications will be submitted in the new year by John Lewis for new build to rent homes in London.
The group’s chair, Sharon White, said: “We’ve identified 20 sites we own that could be used to benefit local communities by providing quality and sustainable housing while providing a stable income for the Partnership.
“We’ll make planning applications for two of these in the new year in greater London.
“Entering the ‘build to rent’ market also allows us to furnish properties using John Lewis Home products and deliver Waitrose food.
“We’re a landlord already at three of our properties so this is an obvious extension for us. And we’re now talking to developers and investors who can help us achieve our ambitions.”