John Lewis & Partners is the UK’s largest department store chain in terms of sales, but has been coming under serious pressure of late, as retail as a whole faces disruption from both the pandemic and, prior to that, changing customer behaviours.

John Lewis is overseen by Naomi Simcock, who stepped into the executive director role on an interim basis in February 2023, following the departure of Pippa Wicks. The creation of an executive role for the department store business, which sits on the JLP executive team, was part of an overall plan to bring the two different retailers closer together operationally, while maintaining separate brand identities.

White appointed Nish Kankiwala as chief executive of the John Lewis Partnership from 27 March 2023.

JLP chair Sharon White launched a strategic review of the business in early 2020 and revealed her five-year strategy for the Partnership in October 2020, setting out plans to expand its digital, virtual and delivery capabilities in order to reach more customers around the UK. See parent company profile

The department store retailer has pushed technology up the agenda in recent years and has emerged as a leader in the industry’s journey towards a fully omnichannel environment. John Lewis now generates well over half of its sales online - a key consideration in White’s decision to ‘right-size’ the store network as part of her review.

John Lewis had a 42-strong estate in early 2021, having permanently closed eight stores during the first national lockdown. And eight further stores were shuttered during the early 2021 lockdown, with just 34 stores reopened from April 2021.

Improved digital capability for has been set as an investment priority from 2021 to reflect the acceleration of the shift to online as a result of the pandemic.

John Lewis posted a muted sales performance against a backdrop of rising inflation and falling big-ticket spend for the year to end January 2023 (FY2022). Net sales fell 1.8% to £3,784m with total trading sales just edging up 0.2% to £4,938m or 0.3% on a like-for-like basis.

Innovation rating: 3.0

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