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Sir Charlie Mayfield to head for John Lewis exit in 2020

9:48 am, 7th November 2018

He said the announcement was being made now to enable a thorough succession process.

Sir Charlie took control of the group, which owns the eponymous department store chain and also includes Waitrose & Partners supermarkets, in 2007.

John Lewis said its nominations committee, which includes Sir Charlie, would be leading the search for his replacement.

Both internal and external candidates are to be considered.

Sir Charlie said: “Although my departure is still a considerable way off, the appointment of my successor is a key responsibility.

“It is for this reason I have decided to lay out the timetable now to enable an open and thorough process to select the next chairman of the partnership.”

Sir Charlie presided over many years of successive growth for the group’s partners – its staff – with its post financial crisis sales holding up thanks to its customer base largely being in the upper wage brackets.

But it has hit troubled times more recently as it has invested heavily in trying to shield itself from pressures affecting the high street.

Its most recent financial results showed half-year profit before tax and exceptional items at just £1.2m, down £95m on the same period last year.

John Lewis also blamed stiff competition, saying it was facing down the most promotional market for nearly a decade and expected full-year earnings to be “substantially lower”.

Partnership bonuses – long the envy of many competitors – have fallen sharply over the past few years, with the business placing a greater emphasis last year on future-proofing itself over staff rewards.

The crisis facing the high street – a result of rising costs such as wages and business rates at a time of weak consumer confidence – has seen one rival in House of Fraser collapse before being rescued by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct.

Debenhams is mulling 50 store closures while Marks & Spencer is to shut at least 100 by 2022.

While John Lewis not not planning to close any stores, it has halted store expansions and preparing for what could prove to be the most difficult Christmas season it has seen since Sir Charlie took over.