Martin George - Waitrose

Source: Waitrose

George joined Waitrose in 2017 with a solid track record in marketing and commercial at the likes of British Airways and the Post Office

Waitrose customer director Martin George is stepping down after more than five years with the retailer.

The supermarket’s top marketer, who has been credited as the prime mover behind Waitrose’s Christmas ad campaigns of recent years, has announced his intention to step down after “five wonderful years with the Partnership”.

“I’ve decided that the time is right, both personally and professionally, for me to step down,” George told fellow staff.

“It’s unlikely that I will move to another full-time executive role, as I’m keen to create time to explore the opportunity to return to non-executive roles, take on charity work and have more time for coaching and mentoring.”

He will continue to support the business and lead the Waitrose customer team as the company sets out to recruit a replacement.

The former British Airways veteran joined the John Lewis Partnership as customer director in 2017.

Following the group’s leadership restructure in 2020 that saw both John Lewis’s and Waitrose’s management boards come together under one single executive team, George remained in charge of Waitrose’s customer proposition.

During his tenure, he oversaw the end of the Waitrose and Ocado partnership and subsequent transition to a standalone online business, a new deal with Deliveroo for on-demand grocery, and the relaunch of the supermarket’s loyalty scheme, MyWaitrose – which did not come without its hiccups.

He also spearheaded the JLP’s Christmas campaign ‘Give a little love’, Waitrose’s 2019 ‘Edgar’ Christmas advert, which marked the first time Waitrose and John Lewis came together for one ad, and the award-winning marketing campaign ‘You can taste when it’s Waitrose & Partners’, which used slow-form ads to highlight the provenance of its products.

George called his stint at the retailer a “dream come true” and said his time there had “exceeded my expectations in every way”.

“Working for a Partner-owned and Partner-led organisation, with purpose at its heart, is very special and unquestionably a better way of doing business.

“Unsurprisingly it’s the Partners that I will miss most – especially those inspired and inspiring colleagues in the Waitrose customer team that I have had the enormous pleasure to work with.”

Read more: Will MyWaitrose loyalty card reboot win back sceptics after axing all the free stuff?

George began his career in brand management at Cadbury in 1984, before joining BA three years later. He stayed on for nearly two decades in several marketing and commercial roles, latterly as commercial director, a promotion that also earned him an appointment to the company’s board.

He then moved on to Bupa, where he spent four years in different marketing roles, before bagging the commercial director position at The Post Office. There, he was responsible for marketing, digital, strategy and the business areas of mails, telecomms, retail and government services.

He stayed at the Post Office for just over three years before taking over the Waitrose role in early 2017.

His past few months at the retailer have been somewhat bumpy, as the customer team struggled to deliver a new version of its loyalty programme that saw the axing of its popular free newspaper offer in favour of personalised rewards – one of the many reasons behind a flood of customer complaints and the introduction of expert MyWaitrose colleagues in stores to help confused shoppers navigate the new digital-first scheme.

Nevertheless, Waitrose executive director James Bailey said George had been “instrumental in modernising our approach to customer and marketing”, as well as “a vocal ambassador” for the grocer over the past five years.

Bailey said: “I’m very sorry to lose Martin but very supportive of his personal reasons for a change.

“I know all Partners will wish Martin the very best for the future.”

Earlier this year, the JLP introduced a new pan-partnership customer director role, responsible for delivering a customer strategy across both Waitrose and John Lewis as the two brands looked to consolidate further as part of their ‘Better Together’ scheme.

The group hired former Co-op’s data and loyalty director, Charlotte Lock, to take on the newly created job. Since joining in April, she has worked alongside George as well as John Lewis customer director Claire Pointon.