Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Prepare for Casualties, Says New Department Store Chief

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Prepare for Casualties, Says New Department Store Chief

Article excerpt

Byline: RETAIL holly williams

THE new boss at department store chain John Lewis has laid bare the difficulties she faces as she warned over a "turbulent and challenging" high street amid cost pressures from the pound and a dramatic shift in consumer spending. Paula Nickolds - who in January became the first female managing director in the chain's 152-year history - said the group was facing "significant" input cost hikes from the Brexit-hit pound, with around 70% of its products imported, but said it "remained to be seen" how much of this would be passed on to the consumer.

She cautioned this was compounding already difficult trading conditions, as consumers are switching spending away from clothes towards eating out and holidays.

She said: "I'm taking over at a turbulent and challenging time.

"This is a tough environment and there will be casualties - we can't be under any illusion on that."

She confirmed there would be more job losses across the group this year, following from the announcement last month that nearly 400 jobs were being axed, but declined to give numbers.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, had already warned at the group's results earlier this month that there would be a "continual gradual decline" of jobs.

Ms Nickolds outlined changes to modernise stores and help the group ride out tougher trading, with a new target to increase exclusive brand partnerships and include more "experiences" to lure shoppers back into shops.

John Lewis said around 38% of its one million products are exclusive partnership products, such as Loaf sofas and Leon cookware, or ownbrands - but it wants to expand this to 50% across the department store chain.

"Customers are telling us they want this - they want things they can buy only from us," said Ms Nickolds. …

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