Former Tesco Boss To Take Over As Chair At John Lewis Partnership

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In a move which will undoubtedly hugely reassure the market, one of the U.K.’s venerable retail titans has opted for what appears the safest of hands for the next stage of its history.

U.K. department store and grocery group John Lewis Partnership has announced that the former domestic boss of Britain’s biggest retailer, Tesco, will become its next chairman.

Jason Tarry will take up his new role in September, replacing Dame Sharon White who confirmed last year that she would be standing down at the end of her term, amid growing concern at the lack of direction at the retail group, which is often thought of as a bellwether retailer.

Tarry will become only the seventh chair of John Lewis and in taking over from White – the first woman to lead John Lewis – it means that she will be the shortest-serving boss in the partnership’s near 100-year history thanks to her decision, last Fall, to step away after just five years at the helm.

For his part, Tarry had worked at Tesco for more than 33 years, with his most recent role being chief executive of the supermarket’s U.K. and Ireland business. With wide-ranging experience, he has worked in grocery, general merchandise and fashion during his time at Tesco and led the expansion of the F&F clothing range across Europe while in the group chief executive role at the supermarket.

“The partnership and its brands stand for trust, value, quality and service and it’s a great privilege to be succeeding Sharon as the seventh chairman,” Tarry said.

White: Controversial Legacy

White’s predecessors had served tenures of between 13 and 26 years but her time in charge has been dogged by poor results at both John Lewis and its sister brand, upscale grocer Waitrose, while she faced near revolt after floating the idea of breaking the historic employee-owned structure of the partnership.

Brought in to provide a fresh perspective, she was also increasingly criticized for her lack of retail experience, which some blamed for the retailer’s perceived drop in customer service for which it was once famous, and distractions such as embarking on a private rented residential initiative at a number of its retail sites.

“The board extends its huge thanks to Sharon for successfully leading the partnership through one of the most testing periods in its history – first Covid and then the cost-of-living crisis,” Rita Clifton, deputy chair and chair of John Lewis’s nomination committee, said.

“She has faced the toughest decisions and overseen the partnership’s financial recovery; we are in good financial health with a return to profit, and have a strong balance sheet with record investment planned this year.”

Last month, John Lewis reported full-year profits of $70.7 million compared with an over $295 million loss the year before as its turnaround plans began to bear fruit. However, despite this the partnership said it would not be paying a staff bonus for the second year in a row, which is only the third time it has not paid out such an award since 1953.

White survived a staff vote of confidence last year after the business posted annual losses worth hundreds of millions and her ideas to solve the issues proved hugely controversial.

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