THE new boss of JOHN LEWIS yesterday warned of tough times on the High Street but vowed the chain would be the last to raise prices.
Paula Nickolds, 44, who took charge in January, said retailers faced “significant” cost hikes from the Brexit-hit Pound.
But she vowed John Lewis would stick by its famous motto of “never knowingly undersold”.
Around 70 per cent of its products are imported.
Ms Nickolds, the first woman boss in the chain’s 152-year history, said: “We have hedging positions to protect us against currency movements.
“But those are starting to come off now, so we’re waiting to see the full impact.
“But I will say that, John Lewis being never knowingly undersold, we will be the last to move.”
She predicted some rivals will struggle — and warned John Lewis may have to cut jobs.
But she declined to say how many might go.
Ms Nickolds said: “I’m taking over at a turbulent and challenging time.
“This is a tough environment and there will be casualties.
“We can’t be under any illusion on that.”
The graduate, who joined the company 23 years ago, laid out her vision for the chain.
The strategy will be to remain “utterly, relentlessly focused on the customer”.
Her aim is for half of all products in future to be John Lewis own brand or to be on sale exclusively in the stores thanks to deals with suppliers.
The current figure is 38 per cent. Forty per cent of John Lewis sales are now being made online. She forecast the proportion will rise to half by 2020.And she hinted at a slowdown in new store openings. The chain currently has 48, with three more in the pipeline.
The new managing director described herself as “unashamedly a shopping and design junkie”.
She wants to start offering more “experiences” — such as the rooftop pop-up restaurant at the company’s store in London’s Oxford Street.
A service allowing customers to hire John Lewis staff for advice on fashion or furniture could also be rolled out to other departments.
Changes she has already made include slashing the firm’s 90-day returns policy to 35 days.