Jubilee holiday and Olympics help John Lewis

JOHN Lewis Partnership yesterday revealed that it enjoyed a strong start to the year as first-half profits jumped by 59.8 per cent to £144.5m but said consumer demand remained “fragile”.

Gross sales for the six months to July were up 8.7 per cent at £3.9bn, which the firm attributed to capitalising on major events such as the Diamond Jubilee, improved efficiency and successful product launches.

The figures appear particularly impressive because they are being compared to poor results from early 2011.

“Our trading teams performed particularly well, with clearly differentiated products backed by outstanding service,” said chairman Charlie Mayfield.

“In Waitrose we launched more products than ever before and extended the Brand Price Match. In John Lewis we took market share in all categories and launched a series of innovative design collaborations.”

High-end supermarket Waitrose, owned by the group, continued to expand, with four new large stores and six convenience stores opening during the period. This took the total number of shops to 282 and operating profit to £142m.

John Lewis benefited from strong electronics sales, in part thanks to completion of the digital switchover for terrestrial television and its partnership with Apple. Sales at the department store chain hit £1.6bn, producing profits of £45.6m.

“Our rate of growth will remain positive but will be slower in the second half and, with further investment planned in that period to strengthen our business for the longer term, the rapid rate of profit increase is not expected to be carried through to the full year,” the employee-owned firm said in a statement.