Sir Stuart joined the John Lewis Partnership in 1982 following a twelve year career in the Civil Service. Four years later he was appointed to the Partnership’s Central Board as Director of Research & Expansion and took charge of the Partnership’s development programme. The Deputy Chairmanship was added to his Partnership responsibilities and he became the fourth Chairman of the Partnership a mere ten years after joining.
During his 14 years at the controls he presided over a programme of modernisation which, is now seen as a master stroke in keeping the company at the retail pinnacle. He supervised an increase in stores, redesign of key outlets, extended trading hours, re-brandings, and changes in product lines. He was instrumental in leading the move online, both through the John Lewis website and with their Ocado partnership. All this was implemented without impacting on the principles of partnership and staff wellbeing embodied in its 1929 constitution.
The year before Sir Stuart’s departure John Lewis profits were up 27 per cent and the 68,000 staff – or partners – shared a bonus of £155m, up 29 per cent and equivalent to 18 per cent of salaries. The fact that John Lewis continues to outperform the market is a direct result of its partnership structure, says Sir Stuart. “Our success comes from a host of improvements made by 68,000 people who are motivated to deliver outstanding customer service, which translates into profits that feed back to staff”, he says. “It’s a virtuous circle”.
A founding deputy chairman of London First and past President of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, he is former President of the Employee Ownership Association and continues to champion the benefits of employee engagement in business. He has been a member of the Corporate Leaders Group pressing the government for stronger action on climate change.
Sir Stuart is a patron of The Home Farm Trust Ltd, a national charity providing long term support for people with learning disabilities and their families.