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Promise of minimal change in store or online as John Lewis and Waitrose managements merge

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The John Lewis Partnership promises there will be little to no disruption to its shops or websites as it merges the management of John Lewis and Waitrose. Its senior team will be cut by 75 – or a third –  from 225 in order to save £100m through its future partnership programme.

Rob Collins, managing director of Waitrose, will be among those leaving, while Paula Nickolds, managing director of John Lewis & Partners will become executive director, brand. In her new role she will lead development of the customer experience and future innovations, in areas including digital, marketing, brand and services. The changes also include a slimmed-down executive board and will take effect from February 3 2020.

The retail group said today that its future partnership team would focus firmly on the customer, while enabling the two brands to work more closely together. It says that eight in 10 of its most valuable customers buy from both John Lewis and Waitrose. Front-line staff will have a greater say in how the business serves customers, while IT and supply chain platforms will be developed to serve both brands.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Our current structure has served us well in the past, enabling us to develop two of the UK’s most loved and trusted brands. In the last three years we have delivered significant innovation and driven efficiency, maintaining market leading service standards and growing customer numbers. However, the lesson of the last two years is that we need more innovation, faster decision making and bolder steps to align our operating model with our strategy. This is what the ‘Future Partnership’ is all about.

“Although there will be little or no disruption to our shops or websites in the near term, there will be considerable change in many other areas of the partnership as we bring the two businesses much closer together. These are necessary and these changes will be difficult for some of our partners and we will implement as carefully and sensitively as we can.     

“We are confident, as a board, that when the programme is complete, the partnership will be better positioned to break out from the cycle of declining returns that are affecting most established retailers. We will be a more modern and more unified business with a leadership team and cost structure that will enable the business to thrive in the long-term.”    

Sharon White, the partnership’s chairman designate, said: “I am passionate about working together as one partnership. There is huge potential to unlock from partners working across our two great brands, providing brilliant service to the many customers who shop at both Waitrose & Partners and John Lewis & Partners. And I am very excited to be taking forward the partnership in this next phase of its transformation when I join at the start of next year.”  

Rob Collins will step down as managing director of Waitrose in January, after 26 years at the business. He said today: “I have been closely involved in the planning of the Future Partnership programme and I’m very confident that the new structure is the right one for the future. I am certain it will enable the business to continue its long history of successfully adapting to changing times. There isn’t a role in the new structure that I believe is right for me personally, and so I have decided to leave at the end of January. 

“It’s been an honour to lead and develop the Waitrose business for the last four years and I couldn’t be more proud of what every partner has achieved. I shall be a lifelong supporter of this unique and special business.”

John Lewis is an Elite retailer in IRUK Top500 research, while Waitrose is Top50. 

Image: InternetRetailing Media 

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