John Lewis is cutting 1,500 head office jobs as part of efforts to make £300m in annual cost savings and return to profitability.
Its finance director, Patrick Lewis, the great grandson of John Lewis’s founder and the only family member still working for the business, is to exit the department store and Waitrose group after 26 years as part of the changes.
Lewis will be replaced by Bérangère Michel, the director of customer service. Her duties will switch to Pippa Wicks, the head of the John Lewis department stores, and James Bailey, the boss of Waitrose, as the group trims down its executive team.
The John Lewis Partnership, which employs 78,000 people, paved the way for further job cuts last month when it said it wanted to save an additional £200m in annual costs. The business, which is owned by its staff who are known as partners, had already announced £100m of savings, to be achieved by making its head office and other operations more efficient over the next two years.
The company said the latest cuts would save £50m a year and would involve the loss of jobs in its strategy, commercial development and operations teams. The group said it wanted to create a simpler and more “agile and flexible head office” that was “even closer to customers and frontline partners”. It aims to complete the job reductions by April next year.
Sharon White, the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Our partnership plan sets a course 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 of our customers.
“Losing partners is incredibly hard as an employee-owned business. Wherever possible, we will seek to find new roles in the partnership and we’ll provide the best support and retraining opportunities for partners who leave us.”
White described Lewis, who she said was leaving to “seek new opportunities”, as “the best of the partnership”. She said: “His determined drive to build the financial strength of the business has granted us the opportunity to emerge stronger from the Covid crisis.”
The latest job losses come on top of 1,300 jobs cut when John Lewis closed eight of its 50 department stores this year while it cut one in three senior head office management posts – 75 out of 225 – as part of a reorganisation announced last year.
The company said it hoped to find alternative jobs within the business for some and would offer those being made redundant after at least two years’ service a leaving package including up to £3,000 towards retraining.