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John Lewis and Waitrose to operate as a “single business”

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

1 Oct 2019

Business

John Lewis Partnership has confirmed that it is integrating the teams behind its two brands, John Lewis and Partners and Waitrose and Partners to operate as a single business to “enable faster delivery of better products and services” for its customers.

The plan, called “Future Partnership” will see the two retail businesses managed by a single executive team responsible for the Partnership’s business strategy and performance, as a single business, not as two separate business units, which is expected to save the retail group around 100 million pounds over time.

The new-look John Lewis Partnership will be led by chairman, Sharon White, alongside the executive team that will comprise of seven new director roles with responsibilities across the whole of the Partnership. There will no longer be divisional boards or separate managing directors for John Lewis and Waitrose, instead, there will be a smaller Partnership board with the chairman, the executive director, finance, three elected directors and a minimum of two non-executive directors, including the deputy chairman.

Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield, said in a statement: “Our current structure has served us well in the past, enabling us to develop two of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands. In the last three years, we have delivered significant innovation and driven efficiency, maintaining market-leading service standards and growing customer numbers. However, the lesson of the last two years is that we need more innovation, faster decision making and bolder steps to align our operating model with our strategy. This is what the ‘Future Partnership’ is all about.

“Although there will be little or no disruption to our shops or websites in the near term, there will be considerable change in many other areas of the Partnership as we bring the two businesses much closer together. These are necessary and these changes will be difficult for some of our Partners and we will implement as carefully and sensitively as we can.”

John Lewis Partnership announces new executive team as part of future-proofing of business

This means the creation of new senior roles with responsibilities that span both brands, including a new role for Paula Nickolds, currently managing director of John Lewis and Partners, she will become executive director, brand. Nickolds’ new role will see her responsible for the continued enhancement of the Partnership’s brands and leading the development of customer experience and future innovations, the retail group said in a statement. She will lead brand, digital, marketing and services across the John Lewis Partnership.

While Rob Collins, the current managing director of Waitrose and Partners, has confirmed that he will step down after a 26-year career with the company. He is expected to leave his role in January 2020.

The new executive team, from February 3, 2020, will also include Patrick Lewis as executive director, finance, currently he serves as group finance director of the John Lewis Partnership, while Tracey Killen current director of personnel of the John Lewis Partnership, will become executive director, people.

Current chief information officer and transformation at John Lewis Partnership, Andrew Murphy has been named executive director, operations, while Bérangère Michel, current operations director at John Lewis and Partners, has become executive director, customer service.

In addition, there are two appointments still to be announced, executive director, trading and executive director, strategy.

Sharon White, chairman designate, said: "I am passionate about working together as one Partnership. There is huge potential to unlock from Partners working across our two great brands, providing brilliant service to the many customers who shop at both Waitrose and Partners and John Lewis and Partners. And I am very excited to be taking forward the Partnership in this next phase of its transformation when I join at the start of next year."

John Lewis Partnership streamlines business and implements “Future Partnership”

As a result of the creation of the new cross-Partnership roles and the greater integration of the two brands into a single business, the retail group is anticipated that there will be a reduction of around 75 senior management head office roles from the current total of 225, which together with all aspects of the new plan will ultimately lead to an overall cost saving of around 100 million pounds over time.

The changes it adds will “sharpen its focus on the customer” allowing it to speed up the development and roll-out of better products and services, as well as “harnessing the power” of the two brands working closely together, as its research states that 8 out of 10 customers who account for the greatest sales are loyal customers of both John Lewis and Waitrose.

The move will also allow the retailer to develop and set strategy in one place, identifying and agreeing investment priorities and assigning our best talent to them, while also unlocking what it calls a “competitive advantage of front-line Partners”, giving them a greater say in the development of our offer and how it is delivered to customers.

While finally it will make internal and customer service systems more efficient and effective through developing common IT and supply chain platforms, and speed up decision-making, enabling the business to respond rapidly to customers’ needs.

Mayfield added: “We are confident, as a Board, that when the programme is complete, the Partnership will be better positioned to break out from the cycle of declining returns that are affecting most established retailers. We will be a more modern and more unified business with a leadership team and cost structure that will enable the business to thrive in the long-term.”

John Lewis Partnership reported annual gross sales of over 11.7 billion pounds and operates 394 shops alongside a leading online business.

Images: courtesy of John Lewis Partnership

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