The John Lewis Partnership, which owns John Lewis department stores and supermarket brand Waitrose, has reported a pre-tax loss of £29m in its interim report for 2021/22.
The result for the worker-owned partnership is a marked improvement on last year, when it reported pre-tax losses of £635m for the same period.
The Partnership’s total sales rose 6% to £5.87bn in the first half of this year, with Waitrose and John Lewis stores seeing an increase compared with both last year and pre-pandemic levels.
John Lewis saw a 12% increase year on year, which was also 1% up on 2019/20, while Waitrose’s total sales increased by 2% year on year, and 10% compared with pre-pandemic figures.
The promising figures have raised hopes that staff bonuses, which were not paid out last year, could return earlier than expected. Speaking to ITV News, the Partnership’s chair Sharon White described the potential of an early bonus reinstatement as “stretching, but not impossible”.
The Partnership’s report states, “The conditions for paying a bonus to partners – sustainable profits of £150m and net debts of less than four times our earnings – were set by the board in September 2020 and remain in place. The board will take a decision on whether to award a bonus for 2021/22 in the usual way in March 2022.”
An operating profit of £820m was reported by the Partnership during the six months leading up to 31 July this year. John Lewis department stores saw profits grow to £295m, increasing by almost double from £153m last year, with Waitrose reporting operating profits of £525m, a decrease of £61m from last year.
Over this period, the Partnership had exceptional costs totalling £98m, including £54m in redundancy costs and £24m in store closure-related property costs.
In its report, the Partnership says they hope these costs will “help to drive an annual reduction in costs of £300m by the end of 2022/23, improving our competitiveness and freeing money to invest in growth.”
The Partnership cited global supply chain challenges and labour shortages as contributing to the ongoing risks posed by Covid-19 and an uncertain Christmas period.
They have increased their freight capacity in an attempt to mitigate these risks and ensure enough stock is available for the festive winter season.