John Lewis boss Sharon White to resign next year
- White will reportedly not seek re-election at the end of the five-year term.
- Her departure will make her the shortest-serving president in the association’s history.
The chairman of the John Lewis Partnership will resign next year, amid continued losses and a delay to the retail giant’s recovery plan.
Sharon White has told the John Lewis board that she will not seek re-election to the position at the end of her five-year term, making her the shortest-serving chairwoman in the company’s 100-year history. association.
Her departure comes two weeks after White was forced to admit that John Lewis’ recovery plans would take two years longer than the “inflationary pressures” initially forecast.
The five-year transformation plan, which was launched in 2020, will not be complete until 2027-28.
Short-lived: Sharon White will not seek reappointment, marking the shortest term in office in her 100-year history.
Financial pressure threatens future bonuses for John Lewis staff, who are partners in the company, with the group posting a loss of £59m for the first six months of 2023, following a loss of £99m the previous year.
The losses contrast sharply with the strong performance of rival Marks & Spencer.
John Lewis confirmed today that it has began the process to designate a successor and ‘review the responsibilities of the chairman’s role to ensure they continue to support the successful transformation of the business.’
Rita Clifton, vice president and chair of the nominating committee, will oversee the appointment process.
White, who recently joined industry calls for authorities to rein in rising rates of shoplifting, has faced increasing pressure as John Lewis’ performance has deteriorated.
The group, which also owns Waitrose, suffered a third year of losses in 2022 and was forced to cut its annual staff bonus this year for the second time since 1953.
In May, White lost a vote on his performance over the past year after larger losses, although he won a vote on his overall leadership.
In an effort to revitalize the trade, the group has pushed for price cuts at Waitrose, a revamp of its children’s clothing offering and strong hiring ahead of the Christmas period, among other measures.
John Lewis also appointed its first chief executive in March, with Nish Kankiwala pointing to buy now, pay later options as a potential game-changer.
In an article for the Mail on Sunday in June, White backed human staff amid growing business interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning processes.
This year, the company eliminated its annual staff bonus for the second time since 1953.
White said: ‘The chairman of the John Lewis Partnership plays a special and unique role in UK business.
‘The President is responsible for the long-term health of the Association’s model: commercial success combined with a commitment to world-class customer service and action in our communities.
‘Having led the Association through the pandemic and the worst of the cost of living crisis, it is important that there is now a smooth and orderly succession and handover process.
‘The Association is advancing in its modernization and transformation with better results. There is a long way to go and I am committed to passing on the strongest possible Association to my successor.’