Sainsbury’s has appointed former John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds to head up its clothing and general merchandise business.

The retailer said Nickolds would join in June and would “be responsible for the commercial success of Sainsbury’s £7.8bn general merchandise and clothing business” including Argos, Habitat and Tu clothing. 

Paula Nickolds

Paula Nickolds will join Sainsbury’s next month

Nickolds was previously managing director of department store chain John Lewis between 2017 and January 2020. At the time she left John Lewis, she had been with the business for 25 years, having joined as a graduate trainee and worked across the retailer’s product, buying, brand and commercial teams. 

Under chief executive Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s has shifted its focus back to its core food business but the retailer said Nickolds’ role would be “critical to support the retailer’s ambitions” in this space.

Roberts said: “I am delighted that Paula is joining us; she is a highly respected, talented and experienced retail leader. I am certain that under her leadership, our brands that deliver – Argos, Habitat and Tu – will continue to delight our customers and support everything we are doing in food.

“Paula brings deep experience in product, brands and commercial leadership and she has a passion for understanding and delivering for customers. We are all looking forward to her joining our team.”

Nickolds said: “I’m excited to be joining Sainsbury’s. It is a retailer with a fantastic heritage that is trusted by customers for its great combination of quality and value. It’s an important and dynamic time for the retail sector and I am thrilled to join the team for the next phase of growth and innovation, as well as the opportunity to make a difference to millions of customers’ lives through the much-loved Argos, Habitat and Tu brands.”

She will replace Mike Luck as Sainsbury’s general merchandise and clothing commercial director. 

Sainsbury’s said Luck has “decided that now is the time to pursue a career outside of Sainsbury’s, having joined the graduate scheme 18 years ago”. 

He will stay on until mid-July to ensure a smooth handover of the role.