John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership operates 48 John Lewis shops across the UK, 352 Waitrose shops, and business to business contracts in the UK and abroad. The business has annual gross sales of over £11bn. It is the UK’s largest example of an employee-owned business where all 86,700 staff are Partners in the business. 

Its success owes much to the co-ownership values of its founder, John Spedan Lewis, who handed control and ownership over to the employees in two trust settlements in the last century. The first settlement, in 1929, set up the current partnership and enshrined the principles of profit sharing. Financial control of the business was handed over at this point, but not in the form of a gift – the deal gave Spedan Lewis the right to be paid back for the ordinary shares he handed over. In 1950 the Founder handed over ultimate control to a Trust that owns the entire Partnership for the benefit of all its employees.

The Partnership is one of a handful of companies to have a written Constitution. Uniquely, the Constitution places the happiness of its Partners (employees) and worthwhile, satisfying employment at the heart of its successful business. The constitution also sets out the Partnership’s democratic governance system. This includes the direct election of Partner representatives to two of the three Governing Authorities which run the business – the company’s board and a Partnership Council. The third Governing Authority is the Chairman who is regularly held to account for his performance in running the Partnership by the elected representatives on the Partnership Council. The Partnership Council comprises Partner representatives from across the business and is responsible for holding management to account and to act as a sounding board for Partner opinion.

The Partnership reaps the benefits of employee ownership by sharing ‘knowledge, profit and power’. Partners are able to feed their views to management through the formal democracy bodies and through the company’s weekly magazine, the Gazette which is the longest running in-house magazine in the UK and celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2018.

The Partnership’s profit, after reinvestment, is distributed to Partners. Because it is owned by its employees, the Partnership is able to take a long term approach to investment. The business has a forward-looking strategy – ‘It’s Your Business 2028’. At its heart are three strategic objectives:

  • To strengthen the Waitrose and John Lewis brands and drive new growth
  • To create better jobs, for better performing Partners, on better pay
  • To strengthen the Partnership’s financial position. The Partnership’s ownership model means that we are able to act now and make the changes needed to prepare the Partnership for the future