John Lewis and Waitrose merge marketing units as Paula Nickolds is named brand boss

Merger will improve efficiencies but could result in job losses.

Nickolds: joins executive team
Nickolds: joins executive team

John Lewis Partnership has confirmed that it will merge the marketing departments of John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners, announcing that Paula Nickolds will become executive director of brand.

This raises a question mark over the roles of Craig Inglis and Martin George, customer directors of John Lewis and Waitrose respectively.

The news comes a week after Campaign reported that the company was eyeing such a merger – a process that could result in a number of job losses.

Today sees the retail group confirm the coming together of John Lewis and Waitrose as a single business. Overseeing management of the combined entity will be an executive team comprising seven newly created director roles, led by chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield.

Nickolds, currently managing director of John Lewis, will oversee John Lewis and Waitrose's brand, digital and marketing.

A spokesman for John Lewis Partnership told Campaign that it was only announcing the formation the executive team and that the rest of the leadership line-up, which includes Inglis and George, is still in consultation.

It is expected that a single marketing director role will be created, reporting to Nickolds, but it is uncertain whether Inglis or George will take this position. There will be various other leadership positions to fill. 

The other newly created executive director positions span finance, people, operations, customer service, trading and strategy.

The group is also creating a smaller partnership board that will comprise the chairman (Mayfield, who is soon being replaced by former Ofcom boss Sharon White) and three elected directors, a minimum of two non-executive directors and a deputy chairman.

Mayfield said: "Although there will be little or no disruption to our shops or websites in the near term, there will be considerable change in many other areas of the partnership as we bring the two businesses much closer together. These are necessary and these changes will be difficult for some of our partners, and we will implement as carefully and sensitively as we can."

It is also understood that a number of roles across marketing would be merged to avoid duplication, but no official consultation process has yet been launched.

A spokesman told Campaign at the time that the business had discussed, at its recent half-year results, working as "one business with two brands" and that more detail would be forthcoming.

John Lewis Partnership has been finding the retail market tough. Three weeks ago, it reported a half-year loss of £25.9m before tax, bonus and exceptional items, compared with a £0.8m profit in the same period last year.

Both Inglis and George featured in Campaign's Power 100 list of the UK's most influential marketers.