John Lewis boss to step down after Christmas sales hit

John Lewis’s managing director Paula Nickolds was due to take on a new role as brand boss across the Partnership next month but her departure will prompt the company to reconsider the nature of that role.

John Lewis’s managing director Paula Nickolds, who was due to take on the top marketer role at its owner the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) next month, is stepping down from the company after a poor Christmas at the department store chain.

The retailer was one of a number of high street stalwarts to struggle over Christmas as shoppers abandoned the high street in favour of online shopping, forcing many to offer deep discounts. Like-for-like sales fell by 2% in the seven weeks to 5 January at John Lewis, while gross sales were down by 2.3% year on year to £1.13bn.

That has led John Lewis to warn about profits. While it has managed to reverse the losses it experienced in the first half, the retailer says full-year profits will be “substantially down” on last year and JLP is considering whether it will be able to pay out its industry-leading staff bonus at all.

Paula Nickolds departs

The poor performance has also led to the departure of Nickolds, who has been running John Lewis since 2017. She was due to take on a new role as executive director of brand at JLP in February as part of a shake-up aimed at integrating the teams behind John Lewis and its sister brand Waitrose.

However, she will now leave next month. A spokesperson tells Marketing Week that for the time being the role will not be replaced but that incoming JLP chairman Sharon White will decide on Nickolds’ replacement and the nature of the role going forward.

It is thought, however, that in some form the role will be filled at board level.

“Paula has been with the Partnership for 25 years and has been an outstanding Partner and leader throughout her time. She has played a central role in the development of John Lewis & Partners over the last 10 years in a variety of senior positions,” says outgoing JLP chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield, who is also leaving next month.

“After some reflection on the responsibilities of her proposed new role, we have decided together that the implementation of the Future Partnership structure in February is the right time for her to move on and she will leave the Partnership with our gratitude and best wishes for the future.”