June 25, 2024

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Dame Sharon White describes ‘difficult week’ after decision to leave John Lewis and Waitrose

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Dame Sharon White told workers at John Lewis and Waitrose of a “difficult week” following her decision to step down as she acknowledged there was no ideal timing for her departure and that she intended to leave a legacy of a financially secure business. 

“I’m determined to leave the partnership not just in a more financially secure place but also where we can be more relaxed about ourselves, more confident, a beacon of what a business can and should be,” she said. 

She made the remarks during a twice yearly “Holding to Account” meeting with the retailer’s partnership council — a group of about 60 employees representing the views of about 80,000 staff — as they discussed half-year results.

The gathering took place at its Odney Club in Berkshire nine days after White informed the board she would not seek a second term as chair of the UK’s largest employee-owned company when her tenure ends in 2025.

Owing to the timing, a vote of confidence on the performance of the business was pushed back to after the release of full-year results next year.

In May, White lost a vote cast by the council relating to the previous year’s business performance, in which it reported a loss and did not pay a staff bonus, but she won a confidence vote on her future leadership.

Last month, the group posted a loss before tax of £57mn on sales of £5.8bn in the six months to July 29 and warned that a turnround of the two brands would take a further two years to complete as inflation continued to drive up costs.

Employees queried the timing of White’s announcement ahead of the peak Christmas trading season during the meeting but paid tribute to her invaluable contribution to the partnership, according to the meeting summary and the retailer’s internal magazine published last week and seen by the Financial Times.

They also…

2023-10-21 08:00:08

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