[ad_1]

The battle for the soul of John Lewis: Queen of the High Street Mary Portas says department store has ‘let go’ of its identity by planning to change worker ownership model as shop boss Dame Sharon White hits back

  • Mary Portas, 62, said she was speaking on ‘behalf’ of Britain in an open letter
  • But Dame Sharon, 55, hit back and said she would ensure John Lewis’s survival 

John Lewis has ‘let go’ of its soul under its new chairman, a leading retail consultant has claimed.

Mary Portas, 62, said she was ‘speaking up on behalf of the British nation’ in a letter addressed to the company’s chairman Sharon White, 55, and its incoming chief executive Nish Kankiwala, posted on LinkedIn yesterday.

But Dame Sharon soon hit back and said it was ‘the biggest privilege’ of her life to act as chairman of John Lewis and she would ensure its survival.

It comes after it emerged John Lewis was preparing to water down its decades-old staff ownership model by selling a stake to an outside investor.

See also  Meghan's claims she was not prepared for life in the monarchy is branded a 'total lie' by sources

Dame Sharon is seeking to raise between £1billion and £2billion of new investment but John Lewis’s partnership model means it is unable to raise equity and has instead been forced to sell bonds.

Mary Portas (pictured), 62, said she was 'speaking up on behalf of the British nation' in a letter addressed to the company's chairman

Mary Portas (pictured), 62, said she was ‘speaking up on behalf of the British nation’ in a letter addressed to the company’s chairman

But Dame Sharon (pictured) soon hit back and said it was 'the biggest privilege' of her life to act as chairman of John Lewis and she would ensure its survival

But Dame Sharon (pictured) soon hit back and said it was ‘the biggest privilege’ of her life to act as chairman of John Lewis and she would ensure its survival

Ms Portas said: ‘Your task isn’t to turn around just another mediocre retailer under threat of going under. You’re fighting to save part of our collective cultural identity.

‘But what’s worrying me is that you might think your fight is purely financial. It’s not.

‘The battle in hand is far more nuanced. It’s about what makes up the soul of your brand. 

‘The intangibles, the shared beliefs, the beautiful things that can’t be captured in financial projections but earn a little space in people’s hearts.

‘Somehow, in recent years, you’ve let go of the soul. We’ve all felt the subtle, but powerful, erasure of what John Lewis is, a severing of what’s always set your business apart.’

John Lewis Partnership, which includes Waitrose and John Lewis stores, reported an annual loss of £234million and warned of job cuts earlier this month.

Dame Sharon hired former chairman of Hovis Nish Kankiwala as John Lewis’s first chief executive, in an attempt to revive John Lewis’s fortunes.

Dame Sharon hired former chairman of Hovis Nish Kankiwala as John Lewis's first chief executive, in an attempt to revive John Lewis's fortunes

Dame Sharon hired former chairman of Hovis Nish Kankiwala as John Lewis’s first chief executive, in an attempt to revive John Lewis’s fortunes

The chairman hit back on LinkedIn and said: ‘It’s the biggest privilege of my life to be custodian of the partnership. I am here to ensure that it not only survives, but thrives for generations. 

‘I became chairman because we are a co-owned business. It is why Nish, who has been in the partnership for two years, takes up the role of chief executive on Monday.

‘I love our brands. Their strength isn’t an accident of our being a partnership. It is because we are a partnership. 

‘Our partners who own the business are our greatest asset and our ownership of the partnership will remain.

‘We’ve always been open to new partnerships with investors or like-minded companies to share in our growth. I will not rest until the partnership is restored to full health.’

The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee-owned business with its retail brands – John Lewis and Waitrose – owned in trust by its 80,000 partners.

It has 34 John Lewis shops plus one outlet and 332 Waitrose shops across the UK, along with its retail websites.

Dame Sharon White 

 Dame Sharon White attended Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where she received a BA degree in economics.

She joined the British civil service in 1989, working for the Treasury and the British Embassy in Washington D.C.

See also  Christian preacher, 42, who called a trans woman a 'gentleman' has harassment conviction quashed

She also worked under the Blair Government in various posts and oversaw Britain’s response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Dame Sharon joined TV regulator Ofcom as its chief executive in 2014 and left five years later when she was appointed as chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

She received a DBE in 2020 for her commitment to public service. 

Mary Portas

She has been dubbed as Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ for her retail expertise.

Mrs Portas began her career in John Lewis, Harrods and Topshop. 

She then joined department store Harvey Nichols and progressed to the Board as Creative Director in 1989. 

Mrs Portas launched her own agency ‘Portas’ in 1997, producing challenging campaigns and championing brand development for clients including Clarks, Louis Vuitton, Oasis, Swarovski, Dunhill, Boden, Thomas Pink, Patek Philippe and Westfield.

She also led an independent review into the future of the high street for the coalition government in 2011.



[ad_2]

Source link