TWO Hampshire stores pioneered ways of bringing the John Lewis and Waitrose brands together in a year when performance across the business was “weaker” than hoped.

The John Lewis Partnership saw profits plunge by nearly a quarter in the financial year that ended on January 25 this year, its annual report confirmed.

Profit before payment of its staff bonus, tax and exceptional items fell by 23 per cent to £122.6million – a “weaker performance than hoped for”.

The company also revealed that sales for John Lewis had fallen 17 per cent since March 15, with department stores closed since March 23, although online sales rose 84 per cent. Sales at Waitrose have risen by eight per cent since January 26.

Chairman Dame Sharon White said trading in the last financial year had been “challenging” for the employee-owned retailer.

“As a result, we announced to partners that there would be a modest bonus of two per cent this year, as we focus on reducing debts and investing for future growth,” she added.

The report highlighted efforts to bring its two brands together at stores such as John Lewis in Southampton’s Westquay and Waitrose in Lymington. The Southampton store was relaunched as an “experimental concept shop” last November following a £3m investment.

“Our new concept stores at Waitrose Lincoln and Lymington are giving shoppers access to more products, services and partner skills from across the partnership, such as fashion and style talks, calligraphy classes, barista workshops and photography courses,” the report said.

“Particular focus is on providing customers with the ‘Perfect Pairings’ such as choosing the perfect wine glasses for your red wine.

“John Lewis Southampton also became a pioneer for the future of the department store. We brought services from both brands together under one roof, offering customers expertise and exciting experiences such as cooking, gardening, interior design and style advice. This included opening our first Waitrose cookery school in a John Lewis shop, launching the World of Design interior design concept, and the opening of a rooftop garden and shop from the Waitrose Farm and our Leckford Estate,” it added.

A strategic review and growth plan are due this year.

In a trading update covering the impact of the coronavirus, Dame Sharon said: “We are confident that the future of the business is strong.

“Our short-term trading has though been significantly affected, principally because of the closure of all 50 John Lewis branches,” she told employee partners.

“The partnership has been trading for nearly a century. It has survived a World War and bombings, economic crashes and crises.

“Thanks to you, we shall also come through Covid-19 and emerge stronger.”


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