John Lewis’ new chair warns of store closures and job cuts
Written by Hannah McGrath
John Lewis’ new chairman has warned staff that there could be jobs cuts and store closures on the horizon amid tough trading conditions.
Sharon White, former chief executive of Ofcom, used her maiden speech to staff to set out the “difficult decisions” the retailer is facing, following a lacklustre Christmas trading period, which left the John Lewis staff bonus in doubt.
According to reports of the speech in in the Times, White - who formally takes up the role of chairman this week following the departure of Charlie Mayfield - said she was confident about the future direction of the retailer, but outlined tough choices would have to be made about “stores and jobs”.
White’s address, which was delivered to an audience of 200 and streamed to staff around the country, emphasised the values of the John Lewis partnership were “more important than ever”.
The group, which includes grocery chain Waitrose, has more than 80,000 employees across 50 John Lewis department stores and 338 Waitrose branches, and an annual turnover of £11.7 billion.
Sales at the John Lewis Partnership, including Waitrose, for the crucial fourth quarter trading period were down 1.8 per cent versus the previous year to £2.16 million.
White, a former high-ranking Treasury civil servant and the first black person to become a permanent secretary, also called for John Lewis’ workforce to become more diverse and reflective of wider society, according to reports of the call in the Guardian.
The warning comes after a wideranging shakeup of John Lewis, which has merged the management and executive teams of John Lewis and Waitrose to avoid duplication in senior roles and save £100 million.