Waitrose customer director Martin George is stepping down after more than five years in the role, saying it is “unlikely” he will move to another full-time executive role.
Instead, George plans to return to non-executive roles, take on charity work and dedicate more time towards coaching and mentoring. However, he will continue to support the business and lead the Waitrose customer team until a replacement is hired.
George started his career in brand management at Cadbury, before moving to British Airways in 1987. He stayed with the airline for almost two decades, latterly as commercial director, before joining Bupa in 2008 as interim marketing director. Two years after being promoted to Bupa’s managing director of group development, he was hired by the Post Office as commercial director.
He joined Waitrose as customer director in 2017, while holding non-executive roles at private GP network London Doctors Clinic, sports equipment business Grays of Cambridge, private jet broker PrivateFly, and toy and hobby business Hornby Hobbies. The last of these roles ended in late 2018.
George is credited as the driving force behind Waitrose’s Christmas adverts during his tenure, including 2019’s ‘Edgar’ spot, which saw Waitrose and John Lewis come together in one ad for the first time.
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He also oversaw 2020’s ‘You can taste when it’s Waitrose & Partners’ campaign, which recently won a Marketing Society award and has been shortlisted for an IPA Effectiveness Award.
“After five wonderful years with the partnership I’ve decided that the time is right, both personally and professionally, for me to step down,” George says.
Describing his role at Waitrose as “genuinely a dream come true”, George says working for a partner-owned and led organisation, with “purpose at its heart”, is “unquestionably a better way of doing business”.
“It is the unrivalled commitment and capability of our partners that gives me every confidence in the future,” he adds.
In March, Waitrose’s parent company The John Lewis Partnership reported sales for the supermarket chain of £7.54bn for 2021, up 1% like-for-like on the previous year and up 11% on two years ago.
CEO Sharon White said the business is “on track” with its five year transformation plan, the intention being to “invest heavily” in year two. This includes a £72m investment in Waitrose’s digital services and distribution, and £55m to complete a further 23 major refurbishments of the grocer’s stores.
Elsewhere, the company announced in February the introduction of a new “pan-partnership” customer director role, responsible for delivering a customer strategy that covers both Waitrose and its sister brand John Lewis.Waitrose’s Martin George on why marketers need to ‘be more magpie’
Co-op’s Charlotte Lock was hired for the job, joining from her position as director of data, loyalty and digital products at Waitrose. Starting in April this year, she has sat alongside both George and John Lewis’s customer director Claire Pointon.
Some 40 Waitrose branches now have John Lewis inserts and the full range of John Lewis products, which will more than double by the end of the year as part of the ‘Better Together’ programme to bring the two brands closer together.