John Lewis turns to turnaround specialist Kernan to revive fortunes

John Lewis Partnership – the group which owns the department store of the same name and supermarket chain Waitroise – has announced the appointment of turnaround specialist Will Kernan to its board as a non-executive director.

Kernan, the former chief executive of River Island, succeeds Nish Kankiwala, who was made chief executive officer of the Partnership in March 2023.

John Lewis is undergoing a significant shakeup to its operating model as it looks to reduce £600 million of extra costs out of the business, on top of £300 million previously cut. The company wants to have 40 per cent of its profits to come from non-retail business – such as insurance services and its controversial rental home developments – by 2030.

Kernan is credited with overseeing a drastic overhaul in fortunes at River Island by the time he stepped down in November 2022. Over the course of a year, Kernan cut hundreds of jobs and transformed the company’s fortunes from a loss of £36 million in 2020 to an operating profit of £74 million in 2021.

In addition to three years at River Island, Kernan spent half a decade as The White Company’s chief exec and two years at online sportswear specialist Wiggle Chain Reaction Group as its chief executive officer. He currently serves as chairman at luxury biscuit brand Biscuiteers, and last month was appointed as chair of luxury home brand Neptune.

Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: "I’m delighted to welcome Will as the newest member of our Partnership Board. We’re fortunate to have his extensive experience and expertise, which will play a significant role in our ongoing transformation. As well as his outstanding retail experience Will brings real interest and support for the Partnership model.”

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