John Lewis staff rebuke Sharon White over losses but back her to continue

“Partners” (employees) put Dame White on a performance improvement plan

Also: Can John Lewis turn things around? | LinkedIn


  • John Lewis (department store) has a strong ecommerce/home delivery offer, including larger items (white goods, furniture; some stocked, some bought to order; some shipped in JL owned transport, some drop shipped ) and build to order project managed items (kitchens). total ecommerce was growing pre-pandemic ca 40% of chain wide revenue
  • Waitrose was a late comer to grocery ecommerce (was in a wholesale relationship with Ocado and choosing to not complete for many years, launched their own offer about 6-8 years ago). Grocery ecommerce offer is mostly the standard UK model of 1-2 hour prebooked slot through the door, with qcommerce offered via a partnership with Deliveroo
  • Mary Portas (well respected retail consultant and activist) in her speaking slot at Retail Technology Show (end April), re-iterated some of her concerns with John Lewis that she had previously expressed in her open letter to Dame White (letter previously reported on RMW Commerce)
  • John Lewis (and to a lesser extent, Waitrose) under the previous chair, overexpanded retail shops in the mid late 2010’s (as well as beefing up ecommerce capability–website changes, order management system, large mechanised onmichannel warehouses); a number of shops have been closed.
  • It seems that partners issued their strongest possible warning to Dame White under their employee governance structure. JLP is set up (uniquely, special act of Parliament) as a representative employee democracy; employees elect a board of trustees (who control the parent JLP trust), and that trustee board has precisely 2 powers: Approve hiring of chair (Dame White) and no confidence in chair (effective summary termination). The latter has effectively happened at least once in comparatively recent history (pre 2000, and I think not officially, more of a “leave before we fire you” conversation) but is obviously rare and a bit of a “nuclear” option. The rest of the employee democracy is consultative (managers manage but are encouraged to consult a relevant democratic level on policy, discuss broader grievances, and inform on operations).
  • The “Bonus” mentioned is effectively a profit distribution to current employees, JLP wide fixed % of annual salary/earned wages, agreed by management (in consultation with trustees). No profit effectively means no distribution although the board could choose otherwise and kind-of did last time a bonus was paid 2-3 years ago. Employees don’t hold any assets and don’t otherwise get a dividend; long service retirees keep their employee discount and have access to a few other benefits (apart from accrued pension under various schemes.) Current pension schemes are effectively defined contribution with employer contribution after 5 year qualifying period (previously defined benefit-final salary was available, no longer financially sustainable under UK actuarial calculations, and also shorter 3 year qualifying period for defined contribution was available in the past).