Workers at John Lewis get lowest bonus since 1953 as boss announces store closures

John Lewis in Norwich. Pic: Archant

John Lewis in Norwich. Pic: Archant

Staff at John Lewis are to get their lowest bonus in almost 70 years as the partnership revealed a 23% profit plunge and store closures.

The group, which includes John Lewis and partner Waitrose, said it is cutting its staff bonus for the seventh year running, to 2% of annual salary, after seeing pre-tax profits tumble to £123 million for the year to January 25.

New chairwoman Dame Sharon White - who took the helm at the group last month - outlined a plan to return it to profit growth, including "right sizing" its store estate and slimming down its head office.

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She also hinted that the retailer's long-time slogan "Never Knowingly Undersold" price match could need "modernising" as it struggles to compete on price with online giants and discount events at rivals.

The new chief explained: "We've had fair value as part of our proposition for almost 100 years and fair value will continue to be part of our proposition going forward, whether that's in a more modernised form or not."

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The group also announced that three Waitrose stores will close later this year - in Scotland, the West Midlands and near Portsmouth - as part of the overhaul.

Dame Sharon said: "We need to reverse our profit decline and return to growth so that we can invest more in our customers and in our partners.

"This will require a transformation in how we operate as a partnership and could take three to five years to show results.

"We are stepping into a vital new phase for the partnership and I have no doubt we will come through it stronger."

Dame Sharon - the former chief of communications watchdog Ofcom - said staff affected by store closures who wished to stay with the group would be "actively supported" to do so.

But there was some cheer as she unveiled plans to invest in Waitrose online, ahead of its tie-up with Ocado ending in September, with plans to hire 2,400 new staff and build a new fulfilment centre in north London.

The group was thrown into chaos when John Lewis' MD Paula Nickolds was sacked in January just three months after the MD of Waitrose, Rob Collins, also stepped down following a major restructuring.

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