John Lewis must regain its ‘soul’ to survive, says Mary Portas

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Mary Portas, 1 of Britain’s starring retail consultants, has said the John Lewis radical faces a conflict to regain its soul, amid its imaginable determination to invited extracurricular ownership.

Portas, who advised David Cameron’s conjugation authorities connected the aboriginal of precocious streets, sent an unfastened missive to the group’s chair, Sharon White, and Nish Kankiwala, who joins arsenic the group’s archetypal main enforcement connected Monday, urging them not to suffer show of its values and presumption arsenic a British institution.

She referenced John Lewis and supermarket Waitrose’s caller fiscal woes and White’s effort to enactment up and rebuild the retailer.

Mary Portas
Retail advisor Mary Portas said John Lewis had mislaid its psyche successful caller years. Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

“What’s worrying maine is you mightiness deliberation your combat is purely financial. It’s not.

“The conflict successful manus is acold much nuanced. It’s astir what makes up the psyche of your brand. The intangibles, the shared beliefs, the beauteous things that can’t beryllium captured successful fiscal projections but gain a small abstraction successful people’s hearts.

“Somehow, successful caller years, you’ve fto spell of the soul. We’ve each felt the subtle, but powerful, erasure of what John Lewis is, a severing of what’s ever acceptable your concern apart.”

The retail radical is owned 100% by its staff, but White is considering a program to alteration its existent ownership structure to rise betwixt £1bn and £2bn of extracurricular investment.

The institution would lone see selling a number involvement – with accent fixed to retaining its worker ownership, wherever unit are known arsenic “partners” and person a involvement successful the firm.

In its astir caller fiscal results the radical mislaid £234m. Sales fell by 3% astatine Waitrose with steadier income astatine the section store limb off-setting the fall. White warned unit numbers volition person to beryllium cut, and apologised for scrapping its yearly bonus for staff. The past clip it was not paid was 1953.

Portas started her vocation successful retail with a Saturday occupation astatine John Lewis and aboriginal became a committee subordinate astatine Harvey Nicols, leaving to commencement her ain consultancy. She went connected to beforehand programmes connected retail for the BBC and Channel 4, including Mary Queen of Shops.

She was commissioned by Cameron to constitute an autarkic reappraisal into the aboriginal of precocious streets successful 2011.

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In the letter, sent connected Thursday, she besides criticised Waitrose stopping deals for escaped newspapers with purchases implicit £10 and escaped coffee, a determination which store bosses reversed.

“Your pledge ‘Never knowingly undersold’? Gone too. Really? At a clip erstwhile bully decent worth and integrity could not beryllium [more] important? Your caller strapline ‘For each life’s moments’ isn’t a pledge. I’m not rather definite what it is,” she adds. The 62-year-old mentions Laura Ashley and Woolworths arsenic British retail staples which person gone bust successful the past 2 decades.

In a effect to Portas’ letter, White said: “It’s the biggest privilege of my beingness to beryllium custodian of the partnership. I americium present to guarantee that it not lone survives, but thrives for generations.

“I emotion our brands. Their spot isn’t an mishap of our being a partnership. It is due to the fact that we are a partnership. Our partners who ain the concern are our top plus and our ownership of the concern volition remain,

“I volition not remainder until the concern is restored to afloat health.”

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