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John Lewis boss Sharon White warns AI will ‘never take over’ the business

Sharon White, John Lewis Partnership chair
John Lewis Partnership; Chairman Sharon White; April 2022

John Lewis Partnership chairman Dame Sharon White has claimed robots will not be taking over the “people-centric” business and to not “write off humans just yet”.

Instead, White warned artificial intelligence (AI) will help the company in ensuring its stock flows across the business in “the most efficient way” and help customers by proving recommendations about products based on their preferences.

She also revealed AI will “never replace the uniqueness of human connection and senses”.

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John Lewis is ranked as a Top100 retailer in the RXUK Top500 research.

“Human connection is why the Partnership is built on trust and a closeness to our customers who feel they have a stake in the business,” she told The Mail on Sunday.

“Of course, new technologies must be embraced for businesses to modernise and meet customers’ needs.

“We will always choose the power of human connections, creativity and senses. For a people-centric business like ours, the robots won’t be taking over, so don’t write off the humans just yet.”

The news comes as White has promised the retailer will return to profit by 2026.

In a speech to members of the Employee Ownership Association yesterday, White also revealed staff bonuses would only return “when affordable”.

Recently, White’s performance as chair was also questioned when representatives on the employee-owned partnership council voted in favour of her.

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