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Department store profits fell by 56%

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:43 07 March 2019

waitrose ipswich

waitrose ipswich

Archant

Staff at the John Lewis Partnership will see their bonuses cut for the sixth consecutive year as the retail giant revealed a slump in annual profits.

Futura Park. with Waitrose and John Lewis as well as other retail warehouses has been a big success in east Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATERFutura Park. with Waitrose and John Lewis as well as other retail warehouses has been a big success in east Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The group said it will reduce the renowned bonus to 3% of annual salary, with 83,000 partners sharing out a pot worth £44.7 million, down from £74 million the previous year.

It has cut the bonus for six years running now, and the latest figure is down from 5% last year.

The partnership, which includes upmarket supermarket Waitrose, warned in January that it might have to axe the renowned payout for the first time since 1953 as it battles challenging trading conditions.

It came as the group saw profit before tax, exceptionals and bonus plummet 45.4% to £160 million.

While overall revenue climbed 1% to £10.3 billion for the period ending January 26, operating profits were down sharply due to challenges at John Lewis.

Operating profit at the department store fell by 56% to £114.7 million due to weaker home sales, tighter margins, higher IT costs and the cost of new shops.

Like-for-like sales at the brand were down 1.4%.

In contrast, operating profit at Waitrose recovered, climbing 18% to £203.2 million. The supermarket’s like-for-like sales jumped 1.3%.

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “In line with expectations set out in June, our Partnership profits before exceptionals have finished substantially lower in what has been a challenging year, particularly in non-food.”

He warned that trading conditions are set to remain challenging in 2019, but that the partnership was “confident in our strategic direction and customer offer across both brands”.

When stripping out exceptional items and the bonus payout, pre-tax profit was up 9.2% at £117.4 million.

The firm also said that it will sell off five Waitrose stores to rival retailers, adding that staff at those outlets have been informed.

Sir Charlie added that Brexit and retail failures are taking their toll.

“Near-term uncertainty, politically and in the economy, is having a major impact on consumer confidence, but we do not believe the market conditions are cyclical.

“The disruption we have seen on the high street, including business failures and renewed interest in mergers and acquisitions, are instead signs of an inevitable market adjustment which will require greater clarity on whether brands are competing on scale or difference.”

The Partnership also warned over a no-deal Brexit - or “unmanaged transition” and the resultant impact on consumer confidence and trade.

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