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09 March 2018, 05:30 | Melissa Porter
Image John Lewis said 2017 had been a"challenging year
John Lewis saw like-for-like sales edged 0.4% higher, while operating profits lifted 4.5% to £254.2m, but Waitrose saw profits collapse.
"We expect trading to be volatile in 2018/19, with continuing economic uncertainty and no let up in competitive intensity".
Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said: "As we anticipated, 2017 was a challenging year".
Profit before partnership bonus and tax also dived 67.2 per cent.
The grocery chain responded by lowering the prices of hundreds of products, helping comparable sales growth pick up to 1.1% in the final six months, although this hurt profits. Group profits before partnership bonus, tax and exceptional items dropped 21.9 per cent to £289.2 million. The partnership suffered major exceptional charges of £111.3 throughout the year, including a restructuring and redundancy bill of £72.8 million.
"Consumer demand was subdued, and we made significant changes to operations across the Partnership which affected many Partners".
Although sales were up in both Waitrose (+1.8%) and John Lewis (2.2%) stores, the company says that profits declined sharply 2017, largely due to lower gross margins in Waitrose, driven by weaker exchange rates and commitment to competitive pricing.
Waitrose saw like-for-like sales grow by 0.9% but at the expense of a 42% dive in operating profits, as higher costs were not passed on in prices.
"Partnership Bonus has been awarded at 5%. As at January 2018, the average hourly rate of pay for a non-management Partner was GBP8.91", he added.
It has cut the bonus for five years running now, down from 6% last year and as much as 17% in 2013.
Waitrose has seen like-for-like sales rise 2.4% since the year-end.
Sales were significantly impacted, particularly in John Lewis, by the heavy snow last week, the partnership said.
Before one-off items, pretax profits fell almost 22% to £289.2m, largely as a result of lower profit margins at the Waitrose supermarket chain driven by the fall in the value of the pound, which has increased costs and a "commitment to competitive pricing".
Following a profit warning in January, Sir Mayfield said the business chose to reduce the proportion of profits paid as Partnership Bonus previous year in a bid to absorb the impact of tougher trading conditions.
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