John Lewis annual partner bonus ‘at risk’ as middle class favourite takes on first CEO and faces down talk of pre-tax loss
John Lewis has drafted in its first chief executive as chairman Sharon White looks to get another pair off hands on deck to help the retail group ahead of its trading update tomorrow.
John Lewis Partnership, which oversees the management of department store John Lewis and upmarket grocery chain Waitrose, has appointed retail veteran Nish Kankiwala to work closely with the chairman.
Nish, who was the former chief executive of Hovis and has held senior roles at Burger King and PepsiCo, will take up the role on 27 March and remains a member of the Partnership Board – which he has sat on since 2021.
“Nish has developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the Partnership model and has provided counsel on our transformation. He will be able to supercharge this in his new role while protecting the Partnership’s ethos,” Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership said.
It comes as reports in The Guardian suggest that John Lewis Partnership is expected to report an “annual pre-tax loss before one-offs of about £50m.
Last September John Lewis posted a £92m loss before tax, blaming shoppers spending less due to inflationary pressures in the first half of the year.
This was versus a £69m profit compared to the same period last year, although the partnership said it was “not unusual for us” to make a loss in the first half of the year.”
The group, which has 34 John Lewis shops plus one outlet and 332 Waitrose shops across the UK, also had £1.4bn of debt at its last financial year end.
The middle class retailer is now expected to report its second ever first year loss later on March 16.
In September, John Lewis Partnership posted a £92m loss before tax, blaming shoppers spending less due to inflationary pressures in the first half of the year.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the appointment of Nish Kankiwala was designed to inject more energy into the pursuit of profits.
She said but the annual bonus for partners may be at at risk with the “chances of the partnership escaping a loss for the full year touch and go”.
She added: “The cost-of-living crunch has bitten hard into disposable incomes, and surging input costs at Waitrose has added to difficulties.
“Sharon White, as chairman, is still the steady hand on the tiller guiding the chain through some pretty turbulent retailer waters. But it’s clear there needs to be a razor sharp focus on fresh lines of revenue particularly with the plan to turn great swathes of the real estate footprint into housing.
“This appointment will shake up decision making at the top of John Lewis, but it doesn’t signal the end of the partnership model and the company has reinforced that message in communication today. Abolishing the partnership model would not only damage the John Lewis brand but also risks lowering productivity and staff moral levels, which would be far from welcome at a time when there is already a fight for talent in the labour market.’’