UK's John Lewis to run department stores and Waitrose as one business

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s John Lewis Partnership [JLPLC.UL] will cut a third of its senior management roles as part of a plan to run its eponymous department stores and its Waitrose upmarket supermarket chain as a single business.

The UK’s largest employee-owned business said on Tuesday the creation of cross-partnership roles and the greater integration of the two brands would see 75 of 225 senior management head office positions removed.

The changes mean there will no longer be separate bosses for the two divisions.

The plan will lead to an overall cost saving of about 100 million pounds ($122.5 million) over time, said the group, which in March reported a 45% fall in 2018-19 profit.

Many British retail chains are going out of business or closing stores in the face of subdued consumer spending and a shift to online shopping.

“The lesson of the last two years is that we need more innovation, faster decision making and bolder steps to align our operating model with our strategy,” Chairman Charlie Mayfield said.

“We are confident, as a board, that when the program is complete, the partnership will be better positioned to break out from the cycle of declining returns that are affecting most established retailers.”

Mayfield is being succeeded by Sharon White, the current head of UK telecoms and media regulator Ofcom, at the start of next year. [nL8N23D3VX]

With effect from Feb. 3 2020 the partnership will be managed by a single executive team responsible for business strategy and performance. Led by White, this team will comprise seven new director roles.

Paula Nickolds, the current boss of the department stores chain, will become the partnership’s executive director, brand.

Rob Collins, head of Waitrose for the last four years, will step down from the business in January after 26 years with the partnership.

Current finance chief, Patrick Lewis, will become executive director, finance, and new executive directors for trading and for strategy will be appointed.

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