Thursday 10 March 2016 9:29 am

John Lewis grows market share in challenging conditions, but PBT falls as pension charges and property declines take hit

John Lewis Partnership has heralded its market share growth despite "challenging markets". 

The figures

Profit before tax was down 10.9 per cent to £305.5m, in line with expectations, "entirely due" to pension charges and lower property profits, the partnership said. 

Operating profits before property rose 3.9 per cent to £8.87m at Waitrose and £1.8m at John Lewis itself, with both affected by a higher share of central costs and restructuring costs at the department store.

Net debt has been slashed 48.4 per cent to £372.5m, while the pension deficit has been lowered 24.6 per cent to £941.6m. 

And the thing everyone really cares about – the partnership bonus – was 10 per cent for the year, equivalent to five weeks pay, or a total of £145m.

Why it's interesting

John Lewis is a bellwether for the high street – but both the department store and higher-end supermarket tend to outperform the market and today's figures suggest that while things are far from easy for retail, growth can be achieved.

What John Lewis said

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “The partnership has delivered a healthy trading performance and increased market shares in challenging conditions.

"Although profit before tax and exceptionals was down by 10.9 per cent on last year, that was entirely due to higher pension charges arising from volatility in the market-driven assumptions, and lower property profits. Excluding these, our profits were around seven per cent up on last year which, together with a strengthening balance sheet, represents good progress over the year.

"Market conditions were challenging through the year with deflation in grocery of -2.6 per cent and subdued demand in non-food. Quality, value and product innovation were therefore all the more important alongside greater convenience and service. Our partners performed well on all those fronts and did so while controlling costs tightly and increasing margin.

"I am very pleased that 91,500 Partners will receive a bonus of 10 per cent, which is equivalent to more than five weeks' pay.

"Partners worked especially hard this year coping with unpredictable patterns of trade and the need to keep costs tight, making these results hard won and their bonus well deserved. Taken together with the rising cost of pensions, the total combined cost we have set aside in our income statement for bonus and pensions was higher than prior years."

In short

It was the partners what won it.