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Waitrose boss leaving amid John Lewis overhaul

The group said around 75 head office jobs will go under plans to slash costs by £100 million.

The overhaul will save the John Lewis Partnership around £100 million ‘over time’ (Yui Mok/PA)
The overhaul will save the John Lewis Partnership around £100 million ‘over time’ (Yui Mok/PA)

By Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

The John Lewis Partnership has said the boss of its Waitrose chain will leave and around 75 head office roles are being axed under plans to bring its department stores and supermarket under the same management team.

Rob Collins, managing director of the Waitrose business, will leave at the end of January after a 26-year career with the group following its decision to scrap separate management teams for its two divisions.

The overhaul means it will cut around 75 of its 225 senior management head office roles as part of moves that will save it around £100 million “over time”.

These are necessary and these changes will be difficult for some of our partners and we will implement as carefully and sensitively as we can Sir Charlie Mayfield, outgoing chairman of John Lewis

But John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds will remain with the group, taking on the newly created role of executive director for brand from next year.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, outgoing chairman of John Lewis, said the group needed to take “bolder steps” to turn around its fortunes in a difficult retail market.

He said: “Although there will be little or no disruption to our shops or websites in the near term, there will be considerable change in many other areas of the partnership as we bring the two businesses much closer together.

“These are necessary and these changes will be difficult for some of our partners and we will implement as carefully and sensitively as we can.”

He added: “We are confident, as a board, that when the programme is complete, the partnership will be better positioned to break out from the cycle of declining returns that are affecting most established retailers.”

Dubbed the Future Partnership, the overhaul will mean a slimmed down executive team, comprising seven new director roles with responsibilities across the whole group.

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Waitrose boss Rob Collins will leave at the end of January (Alex Griffiths/Waitrose/PA)

As well as reducing costs, John Lewis said the move will also make it more responsive and speed up decision making, allow the two brands to work more closely together and improve internal and customer service systems by merging IT and supply chain platforms.

Mr Collins said he had been “closely involved” with the overhaul plans.

But he added: “There isn’t a role in the new structure that I believe is right for me personally and so I have decided to leave at the end of January.”

Details of the plans came less than a month after John Lewis tumbled to its first-ever half year loss.

It reported underlying losses before tax and staff bonuses of £25.9 million for the six months to July 27, against profits of £800,000 a year earlier.

Like-for-like sales fell 2.3% across the department stores due largely to weaker demand for big-ticket home and electrical items.

Waitrose performed better, with underlying earnings increasing 14.7% to £110.1 million, though comparable sales edged 0.4% lower.

PA

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