Sharon White steps down – but it might not be enough to save John Lewis

Whale-like department stores appear increasingly incongruous on our high streets, even where they still exist, says Chris Blackhurst

Monday 02 October 2023 19:53 BST
<p>Sharon White with Rishi Sunak</p>

Sharon White with Rishi Sunak

Dame Sharon White will make history when stepping down as the boss of the John Lewis Partnership, just as she did when taking the top job at one of Britain’s best-loved shops.

Her announcement that she will not seek a second, five-year term as chair of the employee-owned business makes her its shortest-reigning head. Her predecessors served between 13 and 26 years. She was the first woman to lead the century-old firm, which runs the department store chain and Waitrose supermarkets.

Formerly a high-flying civil servant and head of Ofcom – no hard-bitten retailer, in other words – she was parachuted in to apply some left-field thinking to an organisation facing challenges from shifting shopping habits.

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