John Lewis cuts 1,500 head office jobs

John Lewis

Another 1,500 jobs are being cut at the John Lewis Partnership in an effort to rebuild its profits while it parts ways with its founding family-connected finance chief.

The employee-owned business is culling almost a third of its 5,000 head-office jobs to remove layers of duplication and bring its Waitrose and John Lewis divisions closer. It said that this would save £50 million as it focuses on cutting £300 million costs by 2022.

The latest cuts are on top of the 1,300 shop roles already scrapped with the closure of eight department stores and the decision to axe 75 senior managers, a third of its top jobs, last year.

The Centre for Retail Research estimates that 125,853 jobs have been lost in the sector this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The John Lewis Partnership, which can trace its history to 1864, has more than 80,000 staff, with 42 John Lewis stores and 335 Waitrose supermarkets and convenience stores.

Dame Sharon White, chairwoman, said that while job cuts were “incredibly hard as an employee-owned business” they were necessary under her plan to “create a thriving and sustainable business for the future. To achieve this we must be agile and able to adapt quickly to the changing needs.”

The partnership announced the departure of Patrick Lewis, 55, after a 26-year career with the retailer. Mr Lewis, great-grandson of the original John Lewis and great-nephew of John Spedan Lewis, the business’s founder, had been in the ring to become chairman before Dame Sharon, 53, was named as successor to Sir Charlie Mayfield.

The appointment of the former boss of Ofcom, the regulator, who had no retail experience, was seen as signalling that the partnership was aware it needed a fresh approach.

Mr Lewis, a former Bain & Company consultant, joined the board as partners’ counsellor to represent their interests as owners before becoming managing director of services in 2012 and group finance director in 2015.

He will be replaced by Bérangère Michel, who has been with the retailer for 12 years and is executive director of customer service. Her responsibilities will be taken by Pippa Wicks and James Bailey, the bosses of John Lewis and Waitrose, respectively, shrinking the executive board to seven members.