John Lewis boss Sharon White has said that making a profit is “more stressful” than overseeing public finances.
The chairwoman said that reading the weekly sales update every Sunday night for John Lewis and Waitrose was “more stressful than the days of figuring out if we spend the taxpayers’ money responsibly or not”.
The retailer is reliant on the profit it makes from selling goods due to its employee-owned model.
As a mutual, John Lewis Partnership cannot tap external backers for cash.
“Your income is from the taxpayer [at the Treasury] and you’re accountable for that. At John Lewis we can only spend the money we make from our customers,” White said.
White was previously a senior civil servant at the Treasury in charge of public finances
She had previously worked as the Treasury’s most senior civil servant, and joined John Lewis Partnership just weeks before the pandemic struck.
This led to 16 permanent store closures as well as job cuts across the group.
White said last year that John Lewis will aim to make two-fifths of its profits in the next decade from financial services, social housing and “outdoor living”.
“I’m not here to make the business lots of money, I’m here to make enough money to do great things,” she said.