New John Lewis boss Sharon White hints at adjustments to restructure

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New John Lewis boss Sharon White hints at adjustments to restructure
Sharon White recently warned of potential store closures and job cuts as John Lewis Partnership endures its most difficult period since the 1920s.
// John Lewis Partnership’s new chair Sharon White hints at making adjustments to predecessor’s restructuring plans
// When Sir Charlie Mayfield’s plan was launched in October, the firm said that White concurred with it
// White now hints at making adjustments, although she agreed the “Future Partnership” structure is right for the business

The new chair of John Lewis Partnership has hinted she could make some adjustments to the firm’s restructuring plan launched by her predecessor Sir Charlie Mayfield.

Sharon White, who joined office earlier this month, implied in an interview with the partnership’s in-house magazine the Gazette that she may make changes to the restructuring plan – although she also made it clear she she was confident that “Future Partnership” structure was the right one for the business.

When Mayfield’s restructure was first unveiled in October, the parent company of John Lewis and Waitrose said White concurred with it.


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White has since told the Gazette that “there will be some adjustments”, but stressed that the partnership was “stronger” when it works “collaboratively” thanks to a 40 per cent customer overlap.

“At the same time, our brands speak to different customers and the rhythm of running a department store is not the same as that of a food store,” White said.

“So, before we close the top structure, I want to make sure we get the best of both worlds, integrate the areas where we get more efficiency and serve customers better, without losing the distinctiveness of our brands.”

The news comes after White recently warned of potential store closures and job cuts as John Lewis Partnership endures its most difficult period since the 1920s.

Speaking at a private meeting of the employee-owned company’s staff council earlier this month, she reportedly said there would be “difficult decisions about stores and about jobs” this year.

White is now set to meet the board this week to decide if staff will be awarded their annual bonus this year.

The partnership’s Christmas results – where Waitrose like-for-like sales edged up by only 0.4 per cent while John Lewis’ sales dropped by two per cent – had prompted then-chairman Mayfield to warn that annual staff bonuses may be scrapped for the first time in 67 years.

Meanwhile in its half-year report published in September, the John Lewis Partnership saw underlying pre-tax loss come in at £25.9 million, compared to profits of £800,000 for the same period in 2018.

This marked the first half-year loss in the company’s history.

The restructuring plan will effectively merge John Lewis’ and Waitrose’s head office functions into one team, resulting in 75 job cuts and savings of around £100 million.

It prompted the resignation of Waitrose managing director Rob Collins and the recent surprise resignation of John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds, who had been slated to become the new brand executive director this month, overseeing both John Lewis and Waitrose in a newly-created role.

The John Lewis Partnership has stressed that its restructuring plan was not in response to cashflow issues that have sent a raft of fellow retailers in the path of CVAs or administrations.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. More than that, Ive been working there for 12 years and been going downhill since, bonus was 20% 12years ago and now maybe 0%. The people who run the company waste too much money on utter rubbish, rebranding, TMS system etc all things that the company didn’t need and can ill afford, mark price has a lot to answer for and jumped the sinking ship years ago.

    • I have to agree. that is why I left waitrose Green street green ORPINGTON. top heavy with management who are very work shy who just walk around trying to look busy.

  2. Mark Price was responsible for the Waitrose free coffee offer , which initially cost the business a fortune and was such a great idea
    none of the competition followed, the ongoing cost to Waitrose is completely unsustainable but they are to afraid to stop it due to customer backlash!

  3. I left The Partnership in 1996 after 14 years service where i was promoted several times. They hung me out to dry due to an awful Branch Manager in Waitrose St Neots. They pleaded with me to stay, relocate do part time on a middle managers salary, but i had a nervous breakdown. I was told very clearly by my doctors and lawyers that i could sue them for constructive dismissal, and in doing so, drag their “good” name through the newspapers etc… and likely get a payout from JLP to keep quiet. At the time i was totally incapable of considering this. With hindsight i wish i had sued the pants off them! Incidentally the Manager who was the problem was fired for gross misconduct in 2003.

  4. Surely keeping the partnership is just a way of keeping wages low because they pay a bonus. Partners and their families are struggling due to this so called bonus which in recent years only brought their income in line with other supermarkets. My hardworking husband, in a top performing Waitrose is paid a 12p lower hourly rate than a 17 year old in a nearby supermarket!! Waitrose partners deserve so much better than this and I’m worried about what’s coming.

    • Hopefully nobody takes a bonus into account when planning personal expenditure [mortgage, rent, holidays, etc]. A bonus is based on performance: If a business makes a loss, then unfortunately there’s no money to be shared [i.e. no bonus to be paid]. If [as mentioned] favorable benefits are available elsewhere, these are clearly worth considering.

  5. How many items does an average family on a very modest income need from a high end department store? It’s NOT a bonus for a lot of partners at the bottom end of the pay scale. It’s needed like I said before to make up their wage.

    • Partners get a discount from a high end department store as well as from John Lewis? They really are getting their money’s worth then…

  6. I’ve worked for retail businesses my entire life, yet I have never come across one with such an utterly ridiculous infrastructure or that is as poorly managed and backwards thinking as John Lewis. Honestly, everything about it from the in-house Stone Age computer software that doesn’t work, to the ridiculous staff induction and training (which reads like something from a Scientology manual), pay structure, policies, inept managers etc etc.. IS LAUGHABLE! I left before my first year was out, it was absolutely unbearable. Oh, and not to mention how absurdly overpriced everything is.. it’s no wonder takings we’re massively going down the swanny.

  7. My experience of the partnership.

    A couple of years ago I was offered a job at my local store.

    The recruitment was a utter shambles. From my application to being informed I had a job offer 6 weeks.
    The induction day, 30 minutes late in commencing. Training partner reading her social media posts while completing the induction.
    Equipment not working.

    Needles to say I declined the offer and they paid me for several months.

  8. I worked for Waitrose for 19 years as a Manager and had to leave because I couldn’t cope with the way partners were treated including myself from Senior Management. I have witnessed bullying,from Senior Management and when tried to report it it was hushed up. Ten years ago this would have been taken seriously. So after 19 years I lost all respect for the Partnership.

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