Dame Sharon White to step down from John Lewis

John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White is set to step down in February 2025 at the end of her current five-year term.

by Antonia Garrett Peel
Last Updated: 02 Oct 2023
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John Lewis Partnership boss Dame Sharon White will step down when her current five-year term comes to an end in February 2025.

According to a statement released by the retailer, White, who was the first woman to lead John Lewis, asked the board this morning to initiate the process to appoint her successor.

In not seeking a second term, the executive will become the shortest-serving chair in the Partnership’s history, according to the BBC, which first reported the news of her planned departure.

As part of the recruitment process for the next chair, White has asked the board to review the accountabilities of the role “to ensure that these continue to support the successful transformation of the business”, the John Lewis statement added.

White’s tenure at the helm of the retail stalwart has not been without controversy.

Earlier this year, she faced a vote of confidence after a tough few months for the Partnership under her leadership.

In March, reports that White was considering diluting the historic employee ownership model sparked anger.

The same month, the annual staff bonus was scrapped after the business reported a £234 million loss for the year ended 28 January 2023. It was only the second time the Partnership had failed to pay the bonus since the scheme began in 1953, the BBC reported – the first being in 2020.

“Having led the Partnership through the pandemic and the worst of the cost of living crisis, it is important that there is now a smooth and orderly succession process and handover,” says White.

“The Partnership is making progress in its modernisation and transformation with improving results,” she adds. “There is a long road ahead and I am committed to handing on the strongest possible Partnership to my successor.”

Recently, there were reports that John Lewis was considering the sale and leaseback of a dozen Waitrose stores to raise cash.

Announcing its first-half results, John Lewis reported that losses had narrowed to £59 million. However, the retailer also warned that the Partnership's turnaround will take two years longer than planned.

In an interview last week, White told Management Today that she believes there will be a continued push by UK Plc to get more people back into the office. “I expect the balance will stabilise at four days in the office and one day at home,” she said.

She added that her biggest leadership lesson was that: “You often learn more from things that did not quite go to plan than things that did.”

Image from JLP/Nicky Johnston