The John Lewis Partnership has announced that chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield is to step down in 2020.
The group, which also owns Waitrose, has begun the search for a successor and a new chairman will be announced in the second half of 2019.
Sir Charlie began his tenure in 2007 and served as the partnership’s fifth chairman in its near 100-year history. He 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.” The announcement of his departure comes at a sensitive time for the group, with the Partnership in September posting a 99% crash in half-year profits to £1.2 million.
The firm blamed it on “challenging times” and the most promotional market for nearly a decade. The group reiterated warnings that it continues to expect profits in the full 2018-19 financial year to be “substantially lower”.
This year has been torrid for high street retailers, with department stores showing some of the most significant signs of financial distress. House of Fraser collapsed into administration and Debenhams has issued a string of profit warnings and store closures.
Sir Charlie’s departure also comes just months after a company-wide rebrand that has raised eyebrows among industry observers. It has seen the John Lewis department store chain and supermarket Waitrose dubbed John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners.
The process for selecting a new chairman will be overseen by the company’s nominations committee, comprising two elected directors, two independent non-executive directors and the chairman. The committee is chaired by Keith Williams, the deputy chairman, and supported by independent recruitment consultants who will consider internal and external candidates.