'Culture clash' led to exit of turnaround specialist Wicks from John Lewis
The reason for Pippa Wicks, the turnaround specialist tasked with driving the John Lewis department store chain’s turnaround, leaving the business suddenly has become clear.
At the weekend, newspaper reports said the reason for her sudden departure as executive director of the John Lewis brand was a “culture clash” between Wicks and her fellow directors.
Her tough management style is understood to have been in sharp contrast to the employee-owned firm’s softer approach. Tensions were understood to have come to a head late last week, leading to her departure after under three years in the post.
Wicks had joined as executive director in August 2020, replacing Paula Nickolds, who left in February 2020. In her time running John Lewis, Wicks oversaw the closure of 16 department stores and the launch of the budget Anyday brand.
She told The Times newspaper that she “greatly enjoyed” her time with the partnership and, together with the team, had made “really good progress” transforming the brand.
“It is a wonderful business and will undoubtedly remain part of the fabric of UK retail,” she added.
The Partnership, which includes John Lewis and supermarket Waitrose, has been going through a tough trading period.
Half-year results to the end of July 2022 saw a loss before tax and exceptional items of £92 million, compared to a profit of £69 million a year ago, although it noted its business is “heavily skewed to Christmas with most of our profits coming in the last quarter of the year”.
Chair Sharon White announced a five-year recovery plan in October 2020, aiming to achieve annual profits of £400 million by 2025. It involved cutting the Partnership’s 51-strong John Lewis portfolio down to 34 stores.
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