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John Lewis announces new leadership structure

Lauretta Roberts
29 April 2020

John Lewis has announced the creation of Executive Director roles for the department store arm of the business and for supermarket Waitrose.

The Waitrose role has been filled by former Sainsbury's grocery buying director James Bailey, while recruitment is underway for his counterpart at John Lewis with an announcement expected soon.

These new positions are said to have built on the new management structure announced last year under previous chair Sir Charlie Mayfield, which sought to bring the management teams of both sides of the business together.

However under Sir Charlie it was intended there would be a leader across both businesses, which was due to be former John Lewis MD Paula Nickolds who left the partnership in January.

It had been speculated that new chair Dame Sharon White wanted to ensure that the differences in the two businesses were respected and that she might opt for separate roles.

In a statement, she said: “These new Executive Director roles at Waitrose and John Lewis will allow us to get the best of both worlds out of our new management structure. We’ll have all the benefits of bringing together activities that are best organised pan-Partnership and reducing duplication while still recognising that there are important differences in the way you run a department store and a supermarket.”

Of the appointment of Bailey, she said: “I am thrilled that James is joining us. He has had an exceptional 18 years at Sainsbury’s, across finance, strategy, convenience and commercial and then latterly as Buying Director for Grocery with accountability for more than half the company's turnover and three times the size of Waitrose. His varied background outside of retail also makes him a great cultural fit for the Partnership and I am looking forward to working with him."

Bailey is the second major appointment made by White since she joined the partnership from Ofcom earlier this year. In February she hired Nina Bhatia as Executive Director, Strategy and Commercial Development. Bhatia was formerly managing director of Connected Home, a global business in the Centrica Group and a former partner at McKinsey.

The two new Executive Directors will become members of the seven-person Executive Team under White. Their roles are:

  • Executive Director, John Lewis - with responsibility for trading, merchandising, marketing and developing customer propositions for shops and
  • Executive Director, Waitrose - with the same responsibilities, including

Yesterday it was reported that John Lewis' senior management team was assessing which of its 50 department stores it would re-open after lockdown with speculation that it was "highly unlikely" all 50 would be retained.

The partnership has drawn up a re-opening plan for its stores, which it will be ready to activate once the Government approves the opening of non-essential retail. As with retailer Next, those stores in out of town locations with more space for social distancing will be likely to be re-opened first.

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