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John Lewis names Paula Nickolds as managing director, marking first female boss in brand's 152 year history

John Lewis has promoted its commercial director Paula Nickolds to the role of managing director, marking the first time a woman has been at the helm of the brand in its 152-year history.

The department store has announced that Nickolds, who has held a number of senior roles at the company, will take over from veteran boss Andy Street who is stepping down to run as the Conservative candidate for the mayor of West Midlands.

As well as being the first female to run John Lewis since it was founded in 1864, Nickolds is now the only woman to run a high street department group.

Having joined the store in 1994 as a graduate trainee at its Oxford Street branch, Nickolds held a number of senior roles before joining the John Lewis management board as buying and brand director in 2013. Most recently as commercial director, she has been responsible for innovation in John Lewis's product assortment and the look and feel of its shops.

The brand's chairman, Charlie Mayfield, said: "At a time of transformation in the retail sector, Paula's progressive and dynamic leadership is just what's needed for the next phase of modern retailing."

Nickolds, meanwhile, added she was immensely excited to lead John Lewis driven by its "unique business model", and with "innovation in its DNA." She will take up the position from January 2017 and Dino Rocos will be the lead director responsible for John Lewis operations between now and her start date, focusing on the delivery of seamless customer service during the seasonal trading period.

The move comes as John Lewis continues to focus its efforts on digital, through expanding its access to startups, partnerships with platforms like Pinterest and doubling down on search investment.