Co-op Group’s deputy CEO Pippa Wicks leaving for John Lewis

Ms Wicks – an experience turnaround specialist – takes over from Paula Nickolds at the helm of the department stores chain

Pippa Wicks, the deputy CEO of the Co-op Group, is moving to the John Lewis Partnership where she will head up its department store chain.

She replaces Paula Nickolds, who quit the role in February after three years in the role. John Lewis has gone through a difficult period with poor Christmas trading last year and profits falling from £250m to £40m in three years.

Ms Wicks is responsible for the Co-op Group’s Strategy and Transformation as well its Funeralcare, Legal Services and Insurance businesses.

She has been with the Group since 2013, when she joined on an interim basis from the business consultants AlixPartners to advise on its rescue and rebuild from the crisis that followed the collapse of the Co-op Bank. In 2016 the Group made her its permanent chief operating officer and in 2017 she became deputy CEO. She continues to chair Alixpartners’ UK turnaround and restructuring business.

She previously served as CEO of FT Knowledge, a division of Pearson, group CFO of Courtaulds Textiles, and a senior manager with Bain & Company strategy consultants.

A spokesperson for the Group said: “Pippa had been planning to move on to new opportunities this summer and discussing the best timing with CEO Steve Murrells since the autumn of last year.

“Pippa played a key role in rescuing the Co-op during the dark days of our financial crisis and went on to help us rebuild. She has provided strategic leadership to the transformation of our Funeralcare, Insurance and Legal Services businesses, including building a new model for Co-op Insurance with the sale of the underwriting business which will allow us to focus on developing new products with a Co-op difference.

“She’ll be greatly missed by colleagues and members and we all wish her well for her new role elsewhere in the co-operative and mutuals sector.”

The search for her replacement is now under way.

At John Lewis she will be responsible for trading, merchandising, marketing and developing propositions and services for the stores and the online retail offer. 

John Lewis chair Sharon White said: “I am delighted to welcome Pippa to the Partnership. She brings a wealth of experience of leading and developing businesses that deliver brilliant products and services to customers, both online and in stores.

“Pippa has an exceptional track record, including at the Co-op Group which, as a membership organisation, shares similar values to the Partnership in terms of the commitment to the communities we serve.” 

Ms Wicks said: “I feel extremely privileged to be joining the John Lewis Partnership at such an important time in its history. I look forward to working closely with partners to steer through these extraordinary times in society and in retail.

“As the biggest employee-owned business in the UK and one of the biggest in the world there is an opportunity to provide both exceptional service for customers as well as really meaningful work for Partners.”

This new appointment forms part of a seven-strong executive team and follows James Bailey joining as executive director of Waitrose in April. Simon Coble will continue in his role as trading director of John Lewis, reporting to Ms Wicks.