Managing director Paula Nickolds to leave John Lewis just weeks before she was due to take on expanded brand brief

David Prior's picture

John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds is to step down after the company warned that profits would be "substantially down on last year".

The surprise announcement comes just a month before Nickolds was due to become executive director of brand, when she would have had responsibility for marketing, service and digital innovation across John Lewis and Waitrose.

John Lewis & Partners has been combining the executive teams behind John Lewis and Waitrose into a streamlined, single, management team.

But Nickolds will now leave the company next month in the light of a fall in festive sales at John Lewis.

Sales were down 2% on a like-for-like basis, the partnership said, with sales in its home and technology down 3.4% and 4% respectively between November 17th and January 4th.

“Paula has been with the Partnership for 25 years and has been an outstanding Partner and leader throughout her time. She has played a central role in the development of John Lewis & Partners over the last 10 years in a variety of senior positions,” said outgoing chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield.

"After some reflection on the responsibilities of her proposed new role, we have decided together that the implementation of the future partnership structure in February is the right time for her to move on."

Nickolds, who has risen through the ranks at the company since joining in 1994, was the first woman to become managing director of the partnership.

It's understood that incoming John Lewis & Partners chairman Sharon White will decide on Nickolds' replacement after she assumes her new role next month.