Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Modern Pioneers #8 – Cliff Vanstone, John Lewis

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We’re running a campaign for Co-operatives Fortnight (21st June – 5th July) that shows the strength and diversity of co-operative businesses in Wales.

Through a series of blog posts, the ‘Modern Pioneers’ campaign highlights the sizes and types of co-operatives in Wales and the sectors in which they operate. It’s inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers, who are among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.

Today’s post looks at the work of Cliff Vanstone, Managing Director of the John Lewis store in Cardiff.

“This year John Lewis is celebrating 150 years in business.  It started in a modest way, with a young draper opening a shop on London’s Oxford Street, and is now a leading multi-channel retailer with sales in excess of £10 billion from both John Lewis shops and Waitrose our supermarket business.

Spedan Lewis

Spedan Lewis

The business was put in trust for its employers in 1929 by John Lewis’ son – John Spedan Lewis.  That makes each one of us a Partner in the business, having an equal share in the responsibility and a say in the running of the business.  This is seen to its fullest extent in the democratic bodies that we have in all our business units.  What makes this unique is management’s accountability to Partners through these democratic groups on all matters relating to our business as our Partners are, in effect, the share holders of John Lewis.

The opening of John Lewis Cardiff in 2009 was also our first in Wales. We will celebrate our 5th birthday in September with the 500 Partners we employ in the branch, many of whom either live in or are local to the city.

Co-ownerships such as ours required a bold move by our founder Spedan Lewis and the result is a business where all the Partners own the business.  All Partners have a common goal in the success of the business and share in the profit in the form of the annual bonus, just as a shareholder would be paid a dividend.  Spedan Lewis was a true visionary who created a business model that has thrived and a legacy that has continued beyond his own years.  A true pioneer.”

Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.


Written by Mark Smith

June 30, 2014 at 7:20 am

Posted in co-operatives

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