John Lewis gets new Waitrose chief seven months after scrapping the role

John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White has appointed a new boss for the company’s Waitrose division, reversing a decision to scrap the post by her predecessor seven months ago.

Dame Sharon added she is also looking for a new chief for the department store side of the retailer, which is suffering heavily from the coronavirus lockdown.

James Bailey joins as executive director for Waitrose from Sainsbury’s, where he was buying director for the grocery division of the supermarket.

He replaces Rob Collins, who quit last year with an £892,362 pay-off, and the new John Lewis department store chief will replace Paula Nickolds, who left this year with a £939,773 compensation package.

Mr Bailey’s pay is expected to be revealed next year in the company’s annual accounts.

John Lewis Partnership said the new roles “build on the changes to the management structure unveiled last year to create a single partnership”.

It added: “This involved replacing the separate management boards for John Lewis and Waitrose with a single executive team and bringing together functions such as customer service, strategy, finance, supply chain, property and HR.”

Mr Bailey said he was “delighted” to be joining. He added: “It’s a business I’ve admired for a long time for its relentless focus on quality and service and it’s defining purpose as an employee-owned organisation.”

He left Sainsbury’s in July last year, after a restructuring at the supermarket he worked for over an 18-year career across a range of roles.

Prior to Sainsbury’s, the Essex-based boss worked in financial industry, having started his career as a management trainee for the NHS.

Dame Sharon said she was “thrilled” by the appointment, adding: “His varied background outside of retail also makes him a great cultural fit for the Partnership and I am looking forward to working with him.”

She explained the decision to create the new roles would “allow us to get the best of both worlds out of our new management structure”.

She added: “We’ll have all the benefits of bringing together activities that are best organised pan-Partnership and reducing duplication while still recognising that there are important differences in the way you run a department store and a supermarket.”

Under predecessor Sir Charlie Mayfield, the company overhauled its structure to save on costs as the company bonus for its partners dropped to historic lows.

With coronavirus closing stores and damaging sales, the PA news agency understands it will be “highly unlikely” that all 50 John Lewis sites will reopen after lockdown.

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