John Lewis beefs up its buying team to lift sales

John Lewis is restructuring its department store chain's 350-strong buying team as part of a business overhaul to boost sales and margins.

The reconfiguration is expected to improve stock flow by knitting the buyers into the supply chain and retail operations arms.

The initiative creates 50 posts, including that of business development manager, who will report to the director of buying. The new strategic role will involve creating 'merchandise-based marketing campaigns'.

Merchandise director Jill Little said the buying structure required modernisation.

She said: 'We have to ensure the highest possible profit for the division. We have fewer people working in buying roles than our competitors; by working more efficiently we can recoup the cost of a net increase in numbers.'

The reorganisation is part of a review codenamed 'Compete to Win'. It sees the formation of 'space planning' teams to support the buying directorates and advise on selling themes and space allocation.

'The introduction of these specialists will mean that buyers can concentrate more on developing the assortment, and negotiating with suppliers,' said a spokeswoman.

The retailer intends to double the amount of own-brand product in stores by 2007. It is ditching Jonelle and is working on the relaunch of private-label fashion. The final hoardings will be removed from Chelsea flagship Peter Jones for its reopening on Tuesday.

Separately, finance director Ian Alexander will step up to deputy chairman when David Felwick retires in September.