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Will John Lewis end its employee-owned retail business for investment?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: John Lewis

John Lewis could end its employee-owned stature as the company explores selling a stake to investors to secure much-needed capital.

Changing the retailer’s structure and constitution would allow the company to raise between 1 billion pounds and 2 billion pounds, reported the Sunday Times.

The Times iterated the retailer would not by fully answerable to a board of investors with partners and employees retaining majority ownership. “This would be to secure the partnership model and ensure co-ownership continues,” the report said. “There could be a shareholder but partners would still own the majority.”

Transformation ongoing at John Lewis

John Lewis has been facing job cuts and restructuring possibilities since chairwoman Dame Sharon White announced last week that its loss before tax in the year ended January 28 widened to 234 million pounds from 27 million pounds a year earlier.

“Shoppers felt the pain of inflation,” said John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White at the time. “I am sorry that the loss means we won’t be able to share a bonus this year or do as much as we would like on pay.”

It came as total sales at the partnership dropped 2 percent to 12.25 billion pounds, down 3 percent to 7.31 billion pounds at Waitrose, but up slightly by 0.2 percent to 4.94 billion pounds at John Lewis.

The partner ownership scheme was launched in 1950 by John Spedan Lewis , the son of the founder, who declared that it was “all wrong to have millionaires before you have ceased to have slums,” said the Times.

In August last year John Lewis scrapped its longstanding pledge to Never Knowingly be Undersold, stating “we no longer accept price match claims with our competitors.”

The company has faced incremental pressures opening a plethora of John Lewis and Waitrose stores and facing strong competition from online retailers.

A change to John Lewis’s constitution would require a vote by the retailers partnership council of about 60 staff.

John Lewis