John Lewis has appointed a senior Co-op executive who was previously a management consultant to head its department store chain.
Pippa Wicks, who starts in August, replaces Paula Nickolds, the John Lewis “lifer” who stepped down in February with a £900,000 payoff after three years in charge when profits dived from more than £250m to £40m.
Wicks’s appointment comes after Sharon White, the new chairman of John Lewis’s parent group, decided to change a management restructure put in place by her predecessor, Sir Charlie Mayfield, which did away with separate bosses for John Lewis and the group’s Waitrose supermarket chain. Mayfield had decided the two businesses should instead be run as one organisation.
She will be the fifth woman on an eight-strong board at the John Lewis Partnership under White.
Wicks, who briefly sat on the board of Topshop owner Arcadia before its acquisition by Sir Philip Green, will be responsible for trading, merchandising, marketing and developing products and services for John Lewis.
She is currently the deputy chief executive of the Co-op Group where she was first brought in as an advisor in 2013. She started her career at the management consultancy Bain & Company after a degree in zoology. She was finance director of Courtaulds, then a major clothing supplier to Marks & Spencer, then headed a business education firm, before setting up a European operation for AlixPartners, a management consulting and advisory firm.
Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst, said John Lewis risked having “an excess of consultancy” in its leadership as Wicks joins White, a former government advisor and regulator, and the strategy director, Nina Bhatia, a former partner at advisory firm McKinsey & Company, on John Lewis’s board.
But he said: “She is used to running a business and with John Lewis’s move to services, fashion experience is less relevant.”
White said Wicks would bring “a wealth of experience of leading and developing businesses that deliver brilliant products and services to customers, both online and in stores.”
Wicks said: “I look forward to working closely with partners to steer through these extraordinary times in society and in retail. As the biggest employee-owned business in the UK and one of the biggest in the world there is an opportunity to provide both exceptional service for customers as well as really meaningful work for partners.”