John Lewis Partnership’s latest executive hire will be a new name to many. Nina Bhatia will join on February 17 as executive director, strategy and commercial development, following a career spent largely in consultancy and the energy sector.
Her appointment will I’m sure spark lively debate. Many will legitimately point to Bhatia’s lack of direct retail experience as evidence of the huge gamble being taken by JLP, whose new chair, Dame Sharon White, is also a newcomer to the sector.
Her appointment also reinforces a point I’ve made previously about a lack of Waitrose representation on the leadership team. The grocery trade, perhaps more than any other area of retail, can take many years to learn. Marginal like-for-like sales growth at Waitrose salvaged an otherwise poor overall performance during the Christmas period and now is not the time for the newly integrated executive team to be taking their eyes off the ball, not least with Waitrose’s Ocado contract soon to expire.
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