John Lewis chairman visits St Helens Chamber

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, at St Helens Chamber
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, at St Helens Chamber

The Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield, visited St Helens Chamber, meeting with study programme students and local business leaders.

Sir Charlie became the Partnership’s fifth Chairman in March 2007 after holding a number of high profile roles within the organisation.

He began his career as an officer in the army and went on to become Marketing Manager for the Lucozade brand in 1992. Charlie was knighted in June 2013 for services to business.

The round table discussion was part of a programme of events to give senior St Helens business leaders more direct access to national business figures and politicians.

Charlie is the Government appointed Chair of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Chair of the Productivity Leadership Group. The round table discussion covered a variety of topics from the role of business in society to Brexit, skills shortages and politicians.

Productivity was a central theme, which Sir Charlie described as a “national mission.” In a bid to raise productivity and increase the performance of UK businesses he has been instrumental in developing the ‘Be the Business’ web app. This collection of online tools can help business owners and managers to measure and improve the way that businesses work, which could add £130bn annually to the UK economy.

Sir Charlie also spoke about the challenges facing the retail sector as online shopping becomes ever more popular and logistics giants like Amazon continue to dominate online retailing. In 2016, John Lewis did 40% of its business online and Charlie outlined the need for the retail sector to “reinvent the role of shops.”

With his background in skills, Charlie and the delegates also discussed the pressures of paying the living wage on business owners and skill shortages across a variety of industries.

Tracy Mawson, Deputy Chief Executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “ We are pleased to be able to offer St Helens business leaders an audience with influential people such as Sir Charlie Mayfield. Sir Charlie has had an extraordinary career at the top level of business in the UK and continues that in his work not only as Chairman of John Lewis, but as Chair of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

“Charlie was refreshingly honest about the challenges facing the retail sector and UK businesses in general, especially in the wake of Brexit and widespread skill shortages.

“However, Sir Charlie’s vision of a national mission to improve the productivity of UK businesses was very positive, and the delegates will no doubt be keen to discover their productivity score using the Be the Business online tool kit.”

After a robust discussion, Charlie left delegates with the message that “politicians have a role to play” but business leaders should not “leave it to them” to address and find solutions for issues facing the UK economy and business landscape.

Delegates then enjoyed lunch and an opportunity to further discuss the issues raised at the round table.

If you are a senior business leader in St Helens and would welcome the opportunity to work more strategically with St Helens Chamber and attend future round table events, please contact Tracy Mawson, Deputy Chief Executive, at tracy.mawson@sthelenschamber.com