paula nickolds john lewis MD

Source: John Lewis

Paula Nickolds joined Sainsbury’s in 2021, and has been instrumental in reshaping the Argos, Tu and Habitat brands

Sainsbury’s has shaken up its leadership team following the departure of general merchandise commercial director Paula Nickolds, who will leave to become The White Company CEO in March.

Sainsbury’s will replace Nickolds from within. From February, Graham Biggart, who is currently chief transformation officer, will take responsibility for GM and clothing across Argos and Sainsbury’s as part of a new expanded role, under the title of chief transformation and general merchandise commercial officer.

Matt Leeser, currently business director for seasonal toys and electricals at Argos, will be promoted to general merchandise commercial director under Biggart.

Nickolds – who was managing director of John Lewis from 2017 to 2020 – joined Sainsbury’s in 2021, and has been instrumental in helping to improve the competitiveness of Sainsbury’s Argos, Tu and Habitat brands over the past couple of years.

The news of her departure – which was announced alongside plans to wind down Sainsbury’s core banking division – comes ahead of a new strategy update set to be delivered on 7 February.

Jim Brown, who has led Sainsbury’s Bank since 2019, will retire. He will be replaced by Robert Mulhall, formerly CEO of Allied Irish Bank’s UK division, who will oversee the process from March. Long-standing company secretary Tim Fallowfield will also retire in July.

Rhian Bartlett – currently food commercial director – will also take on a new title of chief food commercial officer, as Sainsbury’s looks to press on with the acceleration of its Food First strategy. 

“As we look ahead to the next phase of our strategy, I’m pleased to confirm this new structure for our Operating Board, which will help us become even more focused and further accelerate our transformation and performance,” said Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts.

I would like to thank Jim, Paula and Tim, who have each made an outstanding contribution to the success of Sainsbury’s and we wish them all the very best for the future. I look forward to sharing more on the next phase of our plan at our forthcoming strategy update, building on all we’ve done to put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s.”

Sainsbury’s enjoyed stellar third-quarter results and Christmas food sales in the 16 weeks to 6 January 2024. Grocery sales grew 9.3%, but some analysts highlighted that this came at a cost to its general merchandise sales, which fell 3.7%.

Sainsbury’s attributed the fall as reflecting what Roberts had previously described as “extraordinary demand” during the same period the previous year, as a result of postal strikes and demand for energy-saving electricals.