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John Lewis boss warns of store closures and job losses

The new chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sharon White, has warned “difficult decisions” lie ahead on store closures and job losses.

In a speech to the John Lewis Partnership’s 81,000 partners, White said that the retailer was facing the most challenging since it was founded in 1905, but promised that decisions on store closures would not be taken lightly. She said that the business would show “humanity” to staff affected by any action. 

White gave the speech as part of the official handover of the role of chairman. She replaces outgoing chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield.

Elsewhere in the speech, White said the business needed to “improve the diversity of the partners we are hiring”, adding that a workforce that reflected society would be “a real boon”.

In January, it was announced that John Lewis & Partners managing director Paula Nickolds is set to leave the business as it prepares to merge management with supermarket division Waitrose & Partners.

It also reported that John Lewis gross sales dropped 2.3% to £1.1bn between 17 November 2019 and 4 January 2020, year on year, and were down 2% on a like-for-like basis.

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