Ipswich: Chairman hails success of John Lewis at Home and Waitrose stores at Futura Park

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield at the Ipswich Waitrose and John Lewis at home

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield at the Ipswich Waitrose and John Lewis at home stores - Credit: Archant

The employee-owned business sector could eventually grow five-fold if helped by more favourable Government policies, the leader of the John Lewis Partnershp said yesterday.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, the employee-owned organisation’s chairman, who was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last week, was speaking during his first visit to the partnership’s twin John Lewis at home and Waitrose stores in Ipswich.

Following a breakfast-time meeting with elected representatives of the “partners” who work at the two stores, which opened last year, he spent the morning touring the site, before moving on to visit the Waitrose stores in Saxmundham and Newmarket.

At a time when business ethics are under close scrutiny, following controversies over banking practices and tax avoidance, he said he believed the employee-owned business model was of increasing relevance.

“I am not saying every company should be run like the John Lewis Partnership but I think employee-owned businesses could become a bigger part of the economy,” said Sir Charlie, who is also president of the Employee Ownership Association.

“At the moment they represent about 2% of the economy but we think that could grow to as much as 10% in the future and we are looking with the Government at ways to make that easier to achieve.

“For example, entrepreneurs moving on will often end up selling to another company and, in a way, will see what they have created disappear over time.

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“Many business people would rather sell their business to its employees, the people who have helped to create it, but – compared with selling it to another company –there is currently a tax penalty for doing that. We think that is wrong and should change.”

Sir Charlie said the launch of the twin stores in Ipswich was an important “first” for the partnership and he had been keen to see for himself how it was working.

He said he had been struck by the sense of community he had found among the partners at the two stores and believed this was a key factor in the commercial success they had achieved since opening, with a sense of job satisfaction always tending to be reflected in excellent service and, in turn, in customer loyalty.