John Lewis FY profits tumble 77%

BRITAIN-ECONOMY-INFLATION-RETAIL

"We expect trading to be volatile in 2018/19, with continuing economic uncertainty and no let up in competitive intensity".

The owner of Waitrose and John Lewis department stores has emerged as the latest victim of hard conditions on the high street after it reported a massive plunge in annual profits and said that it would cut its staff bonus to five per cent of salary this year.

The company's John Lewis store chain recorded gross sales of GBP4.84 billion in the period, up 2.2%, and Waitrose supermarkets recorded 1.8% growth in sales to GBP6.75 billion.

Lower profit margins at the Waitrose driven by the fall in the value of the pound cut pretax profits by almost 22%.

Operating profit before exceptionals at John Lewis rose 4.5% to £254.2 million, but Waitrose, also part of the partnership, saw profits collapse.

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It marks the fifth straight year of bonus cuts, having gone down from six per cent last year and as much as 17 per cent in 2013. As a result, it anticipates further pressure on profits but said it will see benefits this year from the "many changes" it implemented in 2017/18.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said: "As we anticipated, 2017 was a challenging year".

In the first five weeks of the company's 2018 financial year, Waitrose sales were up by 2.7% and John Lewis sales were down 2.8%.

Profit before partnership bonus, tax and exceptional items was also down 21.9% to £289.2m, largely due to lower gross margins in Waitrose driven by the weaker exchange rate and commitment to competitive pricing. Gross sales were up 2.2% to £4.84bn, with like-for-like sales growth of 0.4%.

Sir Charlie added: "We said in January 2017 that we were preparing for tougher trading conditions, with weakness in sterling feeding through into cost prices".

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He admitted that changes made across the group had affected "many" of its employees, with 1,400 redundancies in the past year.

"We did both and I am pleased to say that despite lower profits, strong cash flow has enabled us to reduce our total net debts".

The supermarket, a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, said lower margins in food, as it decided not to pass all cost increases to its shoppers, and investments in customer experience had hit profits over the year.

Against a "backdrop of a challenging market", Home sales were down 0.8%.

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