Source: Waitrose

Martin Gafsen has spent the last 16 years at Royal Mail

The John Lewis Partnership has appointed Martin Gafsen as its new director of property.

Gafsen will join the business on 13 November from the Royal Mail Group, where he is currently interim finance director. The former solicitor and investment banker has been with the postal group for 16 years, in roles including property and facilities director.

Reporting into JLP finance director Bérangère Michel, he will take ownership of JLP’s nationwide freehold and leasehold estate, including Waitrose. He’ll also be tasked with overseeing the partnership’s foray into housebuilding. Gafsen will replace the outgoing Chris Harris, who announced plans to step down earlier this year.

“It’s a great privilege to join the partnership, home to two of the UK’s most loved brands,” Gafsen said. “With an extensive and valuable property portfolio, we have an important role to play in ensuring it continues delivering value for the long-term benefit of customers and partners for generations to come.”

Last week, JLP strategy director Nina Bhatia insisted that the partnership’s commitment to build up to 10,000 buy to let properties by the end of the decade remained “unwavering” despite the decision by chairman Sharon White to step down when her five-year term comes to an end in February 2025.

Under the first tranche of the proposals, the partnership wants to build up to 1,000 flats by redeveloping two Waitrose supermarkets, and a former John Lewis warehouse in West Ealing, Bromley and Reading, as part of a £500m joint venture with investment company Abrdn.

There have been concerns from property experts and local residents over the viability of the plans, in particular the proportion of affordable housing included in the initial proposals.

Waitrose is also set to embark on a programme of store renewal over the next couple of years as its efforts to woo shoppers back to the brand. The plans, which were outlined by Waitrose executive director James Bailey to the Telegraph last month, would focus on ditching “terribly organised” stores, and relocating stores to more efficient locations.

“I’m delighted to welcome Martin to the partnership,” said Michel. “His wealth of experience will be instrumental in helping to deliver our future growth. I would also like to wish Chris Harris all the best for the future and thank him for his immense contribution to our business.”