Former Tesco UK boss has been appointed as the next chair of the John Lewis group, announces the company

Jason Tarry, the former chief executive of Tesco in the UK and Ireland, has been selected to succeed Sharon White as the chair of the John Lewis Partnership, which oversees John Lewis and Waitrose. Tarry, with a 33-year tenure at Tesco, brings extensive retail experience and is anticipated to lead the next phase of the company’s turnaround.

Tarry is set to assume the position in September, ahead of White’s early departure before the conclusion of her term. His tenure at Tesco included various roles, notably as head of the UK and Irish business, where he oversaw grocery, general merchandise, fashion, and management functions.

The John Lewis Partnership, comprising 34 department stores and 329 supermarkets with a workforce of 74,000, has been seeking a new chair following White’s decision not to pursue a second term. Other contenders included former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King and departing Marks & Spencer CEO Katie Bickerstaffe.

While White steered the company back to profitability during her tenure, her focus on non-retail initiatives, such as real estate development and financial services expansion, faced criticism. Tarry’s extensive retail experience, albeit in a different context from the employee-owned culture of JLP, positions him well for the new role.

However, the contrasting market positions of Tesco and JLP present a unique challenge. While both JLP brands are positioned more upmarket than Tesco, Waitrose’s market share in the UK grocery sector is significantly smaller. JLP’s employee-owned structure, emphasizing democratic decision-making, further sets it apart from Tesco’s corporate environment.

Zoe Mills, lead retail analyst at GlobalData, noted Tarry’s accomplishments at Tesco, particularly in developing the Clubcard loyalty scheme and navigating competitive challenges. However, she emphasized the need for a nuanced approach to address threats, with Marks & Spencer posing a significant long-term challenge.

Tarry’s appointment as executive chair for a five-year term signals potential changes in JLP’s leadership structure. Rita Clifton, JLP’s deputy chair, expressed confidence in Tarry’s ability to provide inspirational leadership aligned with the partnership’s values and brand ethos.

Acknowledging White’s contributions, Clifton highlighted her role in steering the partnership through challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises. White, in turn, expressed confidence in Tarry’s leadership and vision.

Tarry, expressing his privilege in assuming the role, underscored the values of trust, quality, and service embodied by the partnership. He pledged a focus on customer-centric retail excellence and investment in growth, aligning with JLP’s ethos and employee-owned model.

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