John Lewis boss insults in two languages


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The Independent Online

When the managing director of John Lewis awoke yesterday morning, he must have wished he hadn’t tried out his new anti-French jokes the night before in a speech to British entrepreneurs.

Andy Street had just returned from Paris, where he had been picking up an award at a retail industry conference. Describing France as “sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat,” he said the country was “finished.”

As he will have read to his horror on the front page of The Times, he then turned his fire on the trophy itself, which he described as “made of plastic and frankly revolting”.

He added: “If I needed any further evidence of a country in decline, here it is. Every time I see it, I think, God help France. If you’ve got investments in French businesses, get them out quickly.”

However, far from being made by a Frenchman, The Independent has discovered that the World Retail Congress trophy which so offended Mr Street was created in London by Berry Place, a highly successful team of British designers. They are based next to St Pancras, which Mr Street boasted was “a modern, forward-looking station” compared with Paris’s “squalor-pit of Europe: Gare du Nord”.

Berry Place also has a thriving industrial design business and recently won plaudits for its work for the Imperial War Museum.

Yesterday, having provoked a stormy rebuke from the French Embassy, Mr Street apologised, saying his comments were meant to be funny but that he had “clearly gone too far”.