John Lewis in trouble: Boss to step down making her shortest-serving chair in partnership’s 100-year history

John Lewis store sign in pictures

The chair of the John Lewis Partnership will step down from her role at the end of her current five-year term

Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon

Published: 02/10/2023

- 11:50

Updated: 02/10/2023

- 13:51

The John Lewis Partnership said Dame Sharon White has asked the partnership board to initiate the process to appoint a successor

The boss of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) will step down from her role at the end of her current five-year term.

Dame Sharon White will stand down as chair of the partnership, which runs historic department store chain John Lewis and supermarket Waitrose, when she completes her term in February 2025.

It is understood Dame Sharon will be the shortest-serving chair in the partnership’s 100-year history.

Dame Sharon said: “Having led the partnership through the pandemic and the worst of the cost-of-living crisis, it is important that there is now a smooth and orderly succession process and handover.

WATCH NOW: Liam Halligan reacts to John Lewis boss stepping down

“The partnership is making progress in its modernisation and transformation with improving results.

“There is a long road ahead and I am committed to handing on the strongest possible partnership to my successor.”

Reacting to the news, GB News Business and Economics Editor Liam Halligan said: “She has had a difficult time. It’s been a very difficult time for all retailers, bricks and mortar retailers with the rise of online.”

He added: “I do think a lot of people in retail will say that she made a lot of mistakes.”

Mr Halligan continued: “I think it’s fair to say, as much as I respect her, that her appointment hasn’t been a success.”

The former Ofcom chief joined the employee-owned business at the start of 2020.

She has since led a major overhaul, including a raft of store closures and a shift in new business areas such as rental accommodation.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, claimed Dame Sharon was the "wrong person" to chair John Lewis.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, he commented: "She didn’t cause all of the issues the company faces, but she’s also done much damage.

"Her ill-advised, and now backtracked on, view that outside equity might be brought in, hurt the morale of partners and showed a lack of understanding of what makes JLP special.

Waitrose store in pictures

There are 34 John Lewis stores plus one outlet and 329 Waitrose shops


"Her lack of retail experience and her civil service background have, quite bluntly, not served the company well. The next chairman of JLP needs to have both the qualities she lacked."

There are 34 John Lewis stores plus one outlet and 329 Waitrose shops.

Last month, the partnership said the five-year transformation plan launched in 2020 would take two years longer than planned as it posted another half-year loss.

The retail group saw pre-tax losses narrow by 41 per cent to a £59million loss for the six months to July.

The group posted a £234million loss in the last financial year, forcing it to scrap its annual bonus for staff.

Rita Clifton, deputy chairwoman and chairwoman of the group’s nominations committee, will oversee the appointment of its next boss.

You may like