• Saturday, April 13, 2024


John Lewis goes back to basics to turn profitable

File photo of a John Lewis store in London. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Shajil KumarBy: Shajil Kumar

When Nish Kankiwala joined John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, a year ago his mandate was to make the company return to profitability after a string of loss-making years, The Telegraph reports.

The new CEO, a Hovis and Burger King veteran, outlined his strategy to his employees as going back to basics – a sharp focus on retail while putting diversification plans on hold.

This was in divergence from the decisions made by his chairman Dame Sharon White, who had set a goal to generate 40 per cent of profits from outside retail by 2030.

Market observers say Kankiwala’s strategy has been partly inspired by the recent revival of Marks & Spencer.

Kankiwala, however, is clear that John Lewis wants to be on its own and not shadow its rival.

His strategy has been well-received by John Lewis employees.

Another source of confidence boost is the return of Peter Ruis.

Ruis had worked at John Lewis earlier and was credited with making the department store fashionable again. He now heads the entire department store division.

John Lewis’s share of the clothing and footwear market has remained largely flat since 2020, and as per GlobalData it rose marginally from 1.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent last year.

As for homeware, John Lewis once used to be a favourite among middle-class homeowners, but now it is losing market share.

Its share of spending has shrunk to 2.7 per cent from 2.9 per cent over the last four years, GlobalData figures show.

Meanwhile, it rivals Dunelm and Ikea have increased their market share during the same period.

Market watchers feel spending money on department stores is a bad investment, as they are no match to online rivals.

However, John Lewis executives believe that in many cities in the UK there is space for at least one department store. And that can be John Lewis.

Mark Price, the former Waitrose boss, believes it is possible to create a successful department store, but it should know what customers want.

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