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99% cut in John Lewis profits

‘Challenging times’: Boss blames Brexit uncertainty PICTURE: PA

THE John Lewis Partnership has revealed a 98.8 per cent crash in half-year profits as it battles ‘challenging times’ and the most heavily discounted market for nearly a decade.

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield blamed ‘ongoing Brexit negotiations’ for ‘continued uncertainty facing consumers and the economy’.

But his comments prompted Brexit secretary Dominic Raab to counter that it was ‘too easy’ for struggling businesses to ‘point the finger’ at Brexit.

The group — which owns the department store chain and Waitrose — posted pre-tax profits of £1.2million, saying revenues had been squeezed by competition to keep prices low. A 1.2 per cent fall in like for like sales at the chain offset a better performance at the supermarket, which saw a 2.6 per cent increase in sales.

The group reiterated warnings that it continues to expect profits in the full 2018-19 financial year to be ‘substantially lower’.

Business Bites

■ STREET food sales are set to top £1.2billion this year as town centre markets become increasingly popular. There will be a nine per cent rise in spending on dishes such as Indian wraps, with world cuisines outstripping growth in traditional fast food sales, according to The Grocer magazine.

■ THE Post Office has delivered a second year of profits as it benefits from bank closures. Trading profits rose to £35million from £13million and turnover hit £961million. The lift was driven by its financial services, telecoms and insurance arms. There was an influx of customers after RBS and Lloyds shut branches.

■ MORRISONS suffered a 29 per cent drop in pre-tax profits in the six months to August despite a 4.9 per cent growth in sales. Sales growth at the supermarket group also accelerated in the second quarter, hitting 6.3 per cent, a nine-year high.