Retail consultant Mary Portas warns John Lewis he has ‘loosed his soul’

Retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas has sent an open letter to John Lewis department store warning that they have “loosed their souls”.

Ms. Portas posted the letter on the LinkedIn networking site following news that John Lewis was considering ending its employee-owned business structure to attract investment.

The retail giant also recently warned of possible job cuts, telling staff it would not hand out a bonus for the second time since 1953.

In her open letter, addressed to President Sharon White and CEO Nish Kankiwala, Ms. Portas wrote: “You are not just Chairman and CEO. You are the custodians of one of the most valued, loved and trusted retail brands in this country.”

“John Lewis and Waitrose are part of the fabric of everyday British life,” he continued.

He also warned that John Lewis risks losing its appeal to younger generations, as well as its established demographic.

Ms. Portas said: “At a time when we crave consistency and comfort from brands we can really trust, she has been chasing the new.

“But here’s the thing: that’s not what we really want from John Lewis. And here’s the other thing: that’s not what the younger generations want from you either.”

He ended the letter by saying that the failure of John Lewis and Waitrose “is not an option.”

The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee-owned business with its retail brands, John Lewis and Waitrose, owned in trust by its 80,000 members.

john lewis store
John Lewis is considering ending its employee-owned business structure (Jonathan Brady/PA)

It has 34 John Lewis stores plus one outlet and 332 Waitrose stores across the UK, along with its retail websites.

Ms. Portas also posted a response from Ms. White, who said that being president of John Lewis is “the greatest privilege of (her) life.”

“We want our brands to continue to grow,” he wrote. “We have always been open to new partnerships with like-minded investors or companies to share our growth.

“I will not rest until society is fully restored.”

Ms Portas, who began her own career with a Saturday job at John Lewis, was appointed by David Cameron to lead a review of the future of Britain’s shopping streets in 2011.

She is also known for her appearances on the BBC and Channel 4.


Leave a Reply