Announcing a loss comparable to last year for John Lewis Partnership’s first six months trading, chairman Sharon White said the performance was “creditable” in the current circumstance and ahead of April’s expectations.
Overall sales for John Lewis were down 10% compared to last year, although its online sales soared, up 73%. Sharon highlighted the “profound shift” in consumer buying habits, with online now accounting for 60% of the Partnership’s sales, compared to 40% before the pandemic. She also revealed: “Before the crisis we believed that shops contributed around £6 of every £10 spent online. We now think that figure is, on average, around £3.”
Since reopening, performance in John Lewis stores is varying according to location. Stores in retail parks are down by around 15% and are doing better than city centres, especially London, which is down around 40%.
However, early weeks of trading in the second half of the year are described as “encouraging” for both John Lewis and Waitrose. Sharon cited the launch of John Lewis’ new Home collection and announced that a “bigger revamp for this key category is set for next spring.”
Acknowledging the climate of uncertainty, Sharon emphasised the importance of Christmas trade for John Lewis, asking “Partners to do everything we can to serve customers brilliantly”.
The Partnership hopes to make a “small loss or a small profit for the year,” although its ‘worst case’ scenario would be a 35% fall in sales for John Lewis. With partners’ bonuses cancelled for next March, Sharon compares the situation to 1948, the only other year that bonuses were not paid, due to the impact of WW2. “We came through then to be even stronger than before and we will do so again,” she concluded.
Top: Tableware from Denby Studio and John Lewis & Partners, illustrating Scandi style in John Lewis’ new customer magazine At Home, launched for Autumn 2020. The magazine is free to customers in store or to read digitally.