LONDON — British retail giant John Lewis and supermarket Waitrose, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, is undergoing internal changes according to speculations from British tabloid newspapers after a shaky year.
The company has warned of potential job cuts and has scrapped its staff bonus after a 230-million-pound loss as a result of inflation and energy bills in the U.K.
The 2022-23 fiscal year results showed that John Lewis and Waitrose group sales were 12.25 billion pounds, a 2 percent dip from the previous year. As a whole, the group reported a 78-million-pound loss.
John Lewis sales rose by 16 million pounds on a like-for-like basis with last year, but its overall sales only rose by 0.2 percent in total.
Dame Sharon White, chair of the partnership, is toying with the idea of bringing outside investors into the business by selling a minority stake, which would fracture the staff’s 100 percent ownership.
The ownership model is a unique one to John Lewis and has become a sacred part of the company since 1950.
In 2020, John Lewis closed eight of its stores, including one at Birmingham’s Grand Central center that cost 35 million pounds to build and only survived five years. But the senior shake-up within its fashion division has helped the category buck the group’s overall troubles.
Kathleen Mitchell joined the business in 2021 as commercial director, and she was responsible for the hiring of John Lewis’ first director of design for fashion, Queralt Ferrer; Heena Mohammed as beauty lead; Claire Miles as head of own brand fashion, and Beth Pettet as head of fashion brands.
Mitchell, a L’Oreal and Accessorize alum, has helped increase fashion sales at the retailer by 13.7 percent in the fiscal year ending Jan. 28.
“This new team has streamlined our in-house ranges and branded collections to offer our customers something fresh and a reason to buy something new. We’ve worked hard to move past the idea of customers coming to us just for ‘basics,’ giving each of our in-house brands — Anyday, And/Or, John Lewis and Kin — their own design handwriting,” Mitchell told WWD.
John Lewis launched 251 brands in the last fiscal year — with 109 taking place in fashion, 114 in home and 14 in beauty and technology.
Men’s fashion was the most successful category, with a 20 percent year-on-year increase. Womenswear sales rose 17 percent.
“The tailoring market is back in a big way and over the past year we have been busy behind the scenes developing an all-new proposition, new fits, modernized constructions and luxury fabrications with us being one of the only high street retailers to offer Ermenegildo Zegna fabrics within our suiting,” said Mitchell.
“We are responding to the changing needs of our customers, with a big focus on seasonal events, weddings and eveningwear,” she added.
Top categories that soared included dresses, rising 42 percent vs last year; shirts and blouses up by 36 percent, and skirts increasing 28 percent. But it was luggage that outshone all the others with sales increasing by 210 percent compared to the year before.