// John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds resigns after John Lewis Partnership’s Christmas sales drop 1.8%
// Like-for-like sales at John Lewis on its own, for the 7 weeks to Jan 4, fell 2.3% to £1.13bn
// Waitrose sales drop 1.3% to just over £1bn
// Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield also warns staff may miss out on annual bonuses for the first time in 67 years
Paula Nickolds is set to exit the John Lewis Partnership after 25 years following lacklustre sales during the peak Christmas period, especially at the department store she led as managing director.
For the seven week period ending January 4, John Lewis Partnership’s gross sales were down 1.8 per cent year-on-year to £2.16 billion.
For John Lewis on its own, like-for-like sales fell by 2.3 per cent to £1.13 billion during the festive period, while stablemate Waitrose saw its sales drop 1.3 per cent to just over £1 billion as a result of store closures.
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Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield, who is due to leave office as well, also warned that John Lewis and Waitrose staff may not receive an annual bonus for the first time in 67 years.
Despite the overall declines, the two retailers’ online sales were a silver lining among the results.
Waitrose online sales increased by 16.7 per cent and in the seven days to Christmas online grocery orders were up 23.4 per cent.
On the other hand, John Lewis online sales increased by 1.4 per cent.
Nickolds, who was promoted to managing director of the department store in September 2016, is now due to leave office in February after working for the partnership since 1994.
In a statement this morning, John Lewis Partnership said her departure was part of the company’s management reshuffle and business consolidation, which was first announced last October.
Nickolds’ resignation also comes just three months after Waitrose managing director Rob Collins – also a longtime partnership employee – stepped down amidst the restructuring announcement in October.
John Lewis Partnership’s planned restructure consists of integrating the teams behind its two retail brands under one executive team.
The £100 million cost-cutting exercise also saw 75 out of 225 head office roles axed, as the company attempted to recover from its first ever half-year loss in September.
Nickolds was slated to become the new brand executive director, overseeing both John Lewis and Waitrose in a newly-created role she was due to take up in February.
“After some reflection on the responsibilities of her proposed new role, we have decided together that the implementation of the future partnership structure in February is the right time for her to move on and she will leave the partnership with our gratitude and best wishes for the future,” Mayfield said.
“At the full year, we expect profits in Waitrose & Partners to be broadly in line with last year.
“In John Lewis & Partners we will reverse the losses incurred in the first half of the year, but profits will be substantially down on last year.
“We therefore expect that partnership profit before exceptionals will be significantly lower than last year.”
He added: “The partnership board will meet in February to decide whether it is prudent to pay a partnership bonus.
“The decision will be influenced by our level of profitability, planned investment and maintaining the strength of our balance sheet.”
Mayfield, who first announced his resignation as John Lewis Partnership chairman in November 2018 and will be replaced by outgoing Ofcom chief Sharon White.