Sharon White, the Chair of John Lewis Partnership, is set to depart as the company grapples with a period of underperformance and a slower-than-expected turnaround. The official announcement on Monday revealed that White, who assumed her role in February 2020, has initiated the process to appoint her successor as her five-year term approaches its end in early 2025.
While her tenure concludes, it stands in contrast to what might have been an extended stay had the company experienced stronger results. Unfortunately, her leadership has coincided with a decline in performance.
White’s arrival coincided with the onset of the pandemic, leading to significant challenges as the company’s department stores were forced into lockdown. Their path to recovery has been gradual and challenging.
It’s essential to recognize that the struggles faced by John Lewis Partnership mirror broader trends in the retail industry, where department stores have been notably impacted, and consumers have shifted towards more cost-effective supermarket options, impacting JLP’s Waitrose business.
While Sharon White is a respected leader with a noteworthy background as a former high-achieving civil servant, her lack of direct retail experience has been a point of contention, especially during these challenging times for the once-thriving firm.
Her strategies, such as bringing in an outside investor and venturing into the housing sector, have also faced criticism.
In light of her departure, the company plans to review the Chairman’s role’s responsibilities as part of its recruitment process to find new leadership. Rita Clifton, Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Nominations Committee, will oversee this appointment process.
White shared her thoughts on the transition, stating, «The Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership holds a unique role in UK business, responsible for the long-term health of the Partnership’s model—combining commercial success with an unwavering commitment to exceptional customer service and community involvement.»
She further emphasized, «The Partnership is making strides in its modernization and transformation with improving results. There is still a significant journey ahead, and I am fully committed to handing over the strongest possible Partnership to my successor.»