John Lewis: As Nickolds exits, is Sharon White entering a disaster zone?

Sharon White and Paula Nickolds

When new chair Dame Sharon White walks through the doors of John Lewis Partnership’s headquarters for the first time next month, she will not be welcomed by all the members of the executive team she expected.

Paula Nickolds, the John Lewis & Partners managing director, has become the latest big name to depart as the business goes through one of the most radical overhauls in its history. The restructuring has already cost 75 senior managers their jobs as one of the UK’s most unique and revered retailers battles to adapt to new realities.

Nickolds’ surprise exit next month ends a 25-year career at John Lewis, where she started as a graduate trainee and rose to run the pioneering department store business.

She is not the only high-profile director to leave, prompting questions among many in retail about whether John Lewis is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in the radicalism of its plans. Nickolds follows Waitrose & Partners managing director Rob Collins through the partnership’s revolving doors.

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