Apr 29, 2020
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John Lewis Partnership rethinks management structure

Apr 29, 2020

John Lewis Partnership has scrapped plans to have a single boss for both John Lewis and Waitrose, announcing the creation of two new executive director roles.

John Lewis

The retail group has hired James Bailey, former buying director at Sainsbury’s to be the executive director of Waitrose and recruitment is now under way for his John Lewis counterpart.

Last year, the company said it wanted to stop having divisional boards or separate managing directors for its two retail brands, instead introducing a single executive team with director responsibility for the whole business.

This involved bringing together functions such as customer service, strategy, finance, supply chain, property and HR, and led to the departure of various senior executives including the boss of Waitrose.

Paula Nickolds, who saw her title changed from managing director of John Lewis to executive director of brand as part of the overhaul, also left the company in February.

The two new executive directors will become members of the seven-person executive team under the chairman. They will be responsible for each brand’s trading, merchandising, marketing and developing customer propositions for shops.

Explaining the decision to create the new positions, Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership said: “These new executive director roles at Waitrose and John Lewis will allow us to get the best of both worlds out of our new management structure. 

“We’ll have all the benefits of bringing together activities that are best organised pan-partnership and reducing duplication while still recognising that there are important differences in the way you run a department store and a supermarket.”

The company’s decision to operate as a single business was considered a tricky move by industry insiders when it was announced in October 2019. The chains have always been managed separately, and the reshuffle not only resulted in the departure of more than 70 senior staff, but also appeared to confuse the lines of responsibility for the two brands.

The business said Rupert Thomas and Simon Coble will continue to serve as trading directors of Waitrose and of John Lewis respectively, and will report into the new executive directors. 

The executive board also includes director of operations Andrew Murphy, finance director Patrick Lewis, customer service director Bérangère Michel, people director Tracey Killen and strategy director Nina Bhatia.

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