Cavendish put on alert as John Lewis plots growth

The John Lewis group is set to stage a pitch for its public affairs business next month.

Five-year incumbent Cavendish Communications has been put on alert as the privately owned retailer considers hiring a new agency to help push through ambitious growth plans.

The successful agency will work across John Lewis's network of department stores, as well as lobbying on behalf of the John Lewis-owned supermarket chain, Waitrose.

No figures have been disclosed but sources said the fees will be 'substantial'. Cavendish MD Alex Challenor confirmed that his agency had been invited to repitch for the account. It is understood that around four other agencies have been shortlisted, but a number of big agencies have been ruled out because they work for rival retailers. 

The pitch is being presided over by John Lewis interim head of public affairs Sally McCombie and Waitrose head of comms Dara Grogan. John Lewis head of public affairs Charlotte Cool is currently on maternity leave.

Earlier this month, John Lewis revealed a sales rise of nearly five per cent for the second half of its financial year. Under new chairman Charlie Mayfield, the group wants to double in size over the next decade.

Waitrose has already signalled plans to open stores in the Middle East under a franchise agreement. It is close to overtaking Somerfield as Britain's sixth-biggest supermarket chain and its success has been seen as one of the reasons for slower growth at rivals Tesco and Sainsbury's.

The group wants an agency to advise on issues such as 'land-banking'. It is also keen to stress its green credentials to decision-makers in Westminster and Whitehall.

John Lewis is not the only big retailer currently reviewing its public affairs arrangements. As PRWeek went to press, Asda was due to hold a pitch for its public affairs business (PRWeek, 15 February). Asda currently uses Bell Pottinger Public Affairs.

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