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Former John Lewis boss warns changing ownership model would be a ‘tragedy’

John Lewis storeftont

Former John Lewis boss Andy Street has warned abandoning its Partnership model would be a “tragedy”.

Street, who was the managing director of the omnichannel retailer from 2007 to 2016, told the BBC that John Lewis went “beyond being a shop”.

The comments come as John Lewis Partnership recently announced it was in the early stages of exploring the sale of a minority stake in the business, which could result in the company no longer operating under its 100% employee-owned business model.

The move comes after the retailer reported a £234 million loss last year.

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“You can buy the same television in other places in truth, but John Lewis was about a way of doing business, showing the market there was a better way almost and that’s potentially under threat,” Street said.

“Some of the best retailers at the moment – Next, Primark, Selfridges – are proving physical retail can still do that, and that’s really the challenge to John Lewis and Waitrose.”

The comments follow the Queen of Shops Mary Portas claiming that John Lewis had “let go” of its soul, after once being the “most valued, loved, and trusted retail brands.”

In an open letter addressed to Chair Sharon White and newly appointed CEO Nish Kankiwala, Portas said: “Failure for John Lewis and Waitrose is not an option. We can’t lose you too.

“So while you fight for the financial brain of your brand, never forget there’s a battle for its heart and soul too.”

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