// Waitrose managing director Rob Collins to step down
// His resignation comes as John Lewis Partnership confirms plans to consolidate Waitrose & John Lewis
// Will result in 75 head office job cuts, a new-look executive board, and no separate MDs for John Lewis & Waitrose
// Current John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds appointed brand executive director
Waitrose managing director Rob Collins has announced his resignation as parent company John Lewis Partnership unveils a head office restructure and business consolidation plan.
Collins is poised to leave the partnership in January after a 26-year career with company, starting off as a graduate trainee and working his way up to the leader of Waitrose for the last four years.
Along with his resignation, the John Lewis Partnership also unveiled a senior management restructure as part of plans to reduce duplication and consolidate its John Lewis and Waitrose fascias.
The partnership’s department store and grocery chains currently have separate operating boards in three different head offices: one for Waitrose, one for John Lewis, and a third used for the partnership.
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The new plans means from next year, there will be one executive team with direct responsibility for the performance and strategy of the whole company.
This means there will no longer be divisional boards or separate managing directors for John Lewis and Waitrose.
The two retailers will also share one common IT and supply chain platform.
Outgoing chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield credited Collins as one of “central architects” of the partnership’s restructuring plans, and said it was a “testament to his character” that he decided to resign given there was no suitable new position for him.
Led by partnership’s chairman, the partnership’s new executive team will comprise seven new director roles with responsibilities across the whole of the company.
Some of the new executive director appointments have already been confirmed, with further appointments expected to be announced over the coming months.
One of the confirmed appointments is Paula Nickolds, current John Lewis managing director, for the new role of brand executive director.
Leading the brand, digital, marketing and services across the John Lewis Partnership, she will be responsible for the continued enhancement of its brands and leading the development of customer experience and future innovations.
As a result of the senior management restructure, and the greater integration of Waitrose and John Lewis, the partnership said it expects to make 75 head office roles, out of a current total of 225, redundant.
The John Lewis Partnership added that its consolidation plans will lead to an overall cost saving of £100 million over time.
However, the changes are subject to formal agreement of the John Lewis Partnership Council, the company’s elected democratic body that must be consulted on any business decision that could lead to 12 or more employees losing their jobs.
Mayfield said that although its current structure served the company well in the past, in the last two years it has learned that it needs more innovation and faster, more centralised decision making.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
The restructure comes less than a month after the partnership revealed its half-year report, whereby it swung to an underlying pre-tax loss of £25.9 million, compared to profits of £800,000 last year.
The marked the John Lewis Partnership’s first-ever half-year loss.
Overall half-year revenue also took a hit, declining 1.4 per cent year-on-year to £4.78 billion.
The partnership said its half-year losses were driven by widened operating losses at John Lewis, which increased to £61.8 million from £19.3 million a year ago as it suffered falling sales, surging costs of an IT overhaul and increasing cost inflation.
Speaking on Collins’ resignation as Waitrose boss, Mayfield said: “It’s a testament to his character that his commitment to the right course for the partnership has not wavered despite his own role being removed in the new structure.”
“When he leaves in January he will do so with the sincere thanks of the whole partnership and with our best wishes for the future.”
Collins said: “I have been closely involved in the planning of the Future Partnership programme and I’m very confident that the new structure is the right one for the future.
“I am certain it will enable the business to continue its long history of successfully adapting to changing times.
“There isn’t a role in the new structure that I believe is right for me personally, and so I have decided to leave at the end of January.
“It’s been an honour to lead and develop the Waitrose business for the last four years and I couldn’t be more proud of what every partner has achieved.”