Oct 20, 2022
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Inflation has hit John Lewis hard says company chief

Oct 20, 2022

The effects of the cost-of-living crisis are outweighing those of the pandemic, with tougher times ahead, John Lewis chair Sharon White has admitted.

John Lewis

And the latest problems have returned the department store and supermarket retailer to conditions last seen in the 1970s, she added. 

White said higher staff levels — it employs around 80,000 workers — at the John Lewis Partnership compared to rivals, and its employee-owned structure meant the crisis was "probably more profound" than the recent pandemic had been for the retailer, reported the Telegraph newspaper. 

She said: "When margins start to decline, it hits us harder. The context in which we find ourselves takes us back to the 1970s.”

The comments, made at Bloomberg's recent Equality Summit, come shortly after John Lewis released trading figures that showed it had made a first-half loss of £99 million, with the retailer saying its customers are spending less in the face of rising costs and increased inflationary pressure.

White added: “We will, over the next six to 12 months, face yet more difficult challenges, because inflation is clearly with us for some time.”

She had told staff that the John Lewis Partnership would need a “substantial strengthening of performance, beyond what we usually achieve in the second half, to generate sufficient profit to share a partnership bonus with partners.

“No one could have predicted the scale of the cost-of-living crisis that has materialised, with energy prices and inflation rising ahead of anyone’s expectations. As a business, we have faced unprecedented cost inflation across grocery and general merchandise.”

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