John Lewis in shake-up of top management

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JOHN LEWIS Partnership, the high street retailer, unveiled a management shake-up yesterday in a bid to improve performance and exploit new technologies more effectively.

The privately held group said it was replacing the head of its department store division and creating a new post of development director, whose responsibilities will include e-commerce.

John Lewis, which runs 25 department stores and the Waitrose supermarket chain, has struggled in recent months, reporting three successive declines in profit. Yesterday, Sir Stuart Hampson, the chairman, said he was ordering the top-level changes to try and meet "the challenges ahead".

Brian O'Callaghan, 57, director of trading for the department store division, will be replaced next year by Luke Mayhew, 46, currently director of research and expansion.

Mr O'Callaghan, with John Lewis for more than 30 years, has been criticised by employees in the company's in-house magazine, The Gazette, for being out of touch with modern retailing. John Lewis encourages its staff to contribute their views anonymously to the weekly publication.

Mr O'Callaghan, in the post since 1990, will hand over the reins at the end of January 2000. During his tenure, sales rose from pounds 1.1bn to pounds 1.8bn, but were under pressure in the months leading up to the September interims. Mr Mayhew, at the group for seven years, will be helped by two principal directors - new posts aimed at beefing up management input to the stores business.

Sir Stuart said Ian Alexander, 49, currently director of personnel, would from next March head up "strategic development, the pursuit of business opportunities, e-commerce, customer communications and research".

John Lewis does not have any e-commerce initiatives up and running. Its Net-related interests are at an experimental stage.

In the six months to September profits fell 22 per cent to pounds 77m. Figures released yesterday put group sales 7.4 per cent ahead in the 16 weeks to 20 November.