John Lewis and Waitrose staff facing cut in annual bonus pay-out

STAFF at John Lewis and Waitrose were yesterday braced for their first bonus cut in three years with the employee-owned firm expected to reveal that it is not immune from the economic downturn.

John Lewis Partnership is due to publish its full-year results on Wednesday next week, when analysts expect it to announce a pay-out of between 12% and 14% of salary for the 77,000 staff, known as “partners”.

They were awarded a pay-out equivalent to 18% of salary from a bonus pot totalling �194.5million last year, with the figure expected to be announced next week representing the first reduction since 2009.

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy Conlumino, told the Financial Times: “Although John Lewis is outstanding in many ways, it is not immune from the wider pressures on the economy, and inevitably this will affect the bonus.”

In September, John Lewis announced that its first-half profits had fallen by almost a fifth to �90.4m after it was hurt by its promise never to be beaten on price, forcing it to match rivals’ promotions.

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One analyst has forecast pre-tax profits for the full year of �350m, compared with �366m last year.

In weekly figures published yesterday, John Lewis said department store sales for the seven days to last Saturday were flat on a year earlier at �54m.

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However, the performance was distorted by the timing of the half-term holiday and John Lewis pointed out that sales across February were 5.7% higher than last year.

At Waitrose, sales were up 8.2% last week at �103.2m, and up 8.5% for February as a whole.

Within East Anglia, the John Lewis department stores business includes branches in Norwich and Cambridge and it also plans to open a John Lewis at Home outlet in Ipswich, alongside a new Waitrose supermarket.

A “Little Waitrose” in-town store opened in the centre of Ipswich earlier this year, joining existing Waitrose supermarkets in Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Sudbury, Saxmundham and Newmarket.

John Lewis was also yesterday reported to be planning an �8m revamp at its flagship Oxford Street store in London, with work due to be completed in May in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic Games.

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