John Lewis managing director steps down

John Lewis Partnership (JLP) – which owns and operates department store group John Lewis & Partners and supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners – has announced that John Lewis & Partners managing director Paula Nickolds will step down from the JLP board and will be leaving her post in February 2020.

Paula has worked for JLP for 25 years and has played a central role in the development of John Lewis & Partners over the last 10 years in a variety of senior positions.

In a statement, JLP said: ‘Last October we announced bold changes to the way the Partnership will be led in future. Known as the Future Partnership plan, it integrates the teams behind our two brands under one new executive team structure. Good progress has been made in implementing that structure, with more than 90% of leadership appointments now confirmed.

‘After some reflection on the responsibilities of Paula’s 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.’

Future Partnership will be in place from the start of February, when Sharon White will become the Partnership’s sixth chairman.

The news was announced yesterday (Thursday January 9) as JLP posted its Christmas trading statement for the seven weeks to January 4.

Gross sales at JLP were down 1.8% year-on-year to £2,167 million. For John Lewis, gross sales were £1,134m, down 2.3% versus last year and down 2.0% on a like-for-like basis. Waitrose gross sales (excluding fuel) were £1,033 million, down 1.3% versus last year (due to shop closures) but up 0.4% on a like-for-like basis.

But Waitrose online sales increased by 16.7% and in the seven days to Christmas online grocery orders were up 23.4%, while John Lewis online sales rose by 1.4%.

JLP chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “We saw a good sales performance in Waitrose & Partners, despite a weak grocery market, with like-for-like sales up 0.4%. In John Lewis & Partners, like-for-like sales were 2.0% down on last year. Operationally – across availability, service, delivery and online – we saw a strong performance in both brands.

“In John Lewis & Partners, Beauty sales were up 4.7%, comfortably ahead of the market, with overall Fashion sales up 0.1%. Home sales were down 3.4% and Electricals & Home Technology sales were down 4.0%. We saw significant variation in levels of demand, with Black Friday sales up 10.0% on the equivalent period last year, followed by more subdued demand in the subsequent weeks.

“In Waitrose & Partners, we saw encouraging progress against our milestones to accelerate growth online next year, with a 23.4% increase in orders and an increase in basket sizes in the seven days to Christmas.

“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. Our balance sheet and liquidity position are strong and we expect to improve our debt ratio.”

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.”


Moving on: Paula Nickolds

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