We have made absolutely no secret of the fact here in the NTI newsroom that we have a crush on Dame Sharon White, the now relatively new chair at John Lewis. She's a tough woman in great shoes with laser vision who looks like she might get drunk at a dinner party and start slagging off the wayward husband of her host, calling him a sluggard (much of this is speculation on our part, but it felt good to share).
She has elbowed her way to the top of the column inches again today (Friday 16 October) by saying the employee-owned group want to save a further £300 million a year by 2022 by further streamlining its operations and head office. Just a year ago this number was £100 million, but Sharon's lucky number is three and she is a woman with a plan. She said with a sexy snarl that the retailer is seeking to push profits to £400 million by 2025 and is planning to grow into new areas, including expanding its financial services business.
John Lewis fell to a £635 million pre-tax loss for the first-half of the year to July 25 compared with a £192 million profit a year earlier and, as reported on the very screen you are currently reading, in September axed its staff bonus for the first time since 1953. Shazzer has already announced her plans to turn some of the stores into housing and offices, as well as opening a gardening business and could be heard in the Peter Jones canteen musing about the possibilities of a John Lewis Safari Park, with water-slides and a casino, as well as a theme park, where the rides are based on white goods, wool and sensible crockery. Admittedly, this last part may be something Neil made up, as his eyes had gone that usual shade of 'funny' when telling us about it, but you shouldn't doubt Shazzer's ambitions and imagination.
The partnership said that it had identified 20 sites it owned that could be used for sustainable housing and would make planning applications for two in greater London next year. We have some issues with the phrase 'sustainable housing' here at NTI. Is the implication that some housing simply isn't sustainable, in that the very structures may collapse? We are starting a campaign for all housing to be capable of standing up to the most severe of breezes and showers. People shouldn't be allowed to live in places that can raised to the ground by the nudge of an elbow. But we get what you mean Dame Sharon and good for you. 2021 and onwards will be built around people like you and if we could clone you to also take a look at the leisure industry, casual dining and dodgy cheap low-rent fashion we would.