John Lewis today posted online sales up by more than a quarter in its latest financial year. The johnlewis.com website took 26.3% more in sales in the year to January 28 than in the previous year, the John Lewis Partnership said today.
The £141.7m rise took johnlewis.com to total sales of £680.8m, including VAT. Before VAT, the rise was in the order of 24.2%. Online sales now make up more than a fifth of the department store’s total sales, the company said.
But John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield said that in future it would become increasingly important for both John Lewis and sister company Waitrose to differentiate the products it sells online. “Pretty much anything can now be sold online,” he said, “and our ability to originate and source unique products that our customers want and only we can sell will become more and more important.”
In the year to January 28, John Lewis Partnership gross sales grew by 6.4% to £8.73bn, and profits before the partnership’s bonus and tax fell by 3.8%, or £14.1m, to £353.8m. Partners will share in a £165.2m bonus, equivalent to 14% of their salary, or more than seven weeks pay.
Within the group, supermarket Waitrose recorded an 8.6% rise in gross sales to £5.4bn with like-for-like food-only sales up by 3.6%, including VAT. But operating profit fell by 5.2%, or £14.3m, to £260.6m.
The John Lewis chain of department stores recorded a 3% rise in gross sales to £3.33bn, while like-for-like sales, including VAT, rose by 1.3%. However like-for-like sales were down by 0.6% when VAT was excluded. Operating profit fell by 20.4% to £157.9m.
Mayfield said: “We have achieved a good sales performance in a tough year for the economy. Profits are lower than last year but better than expected and I’m delighted to announce that all 81,000 partners will be receiving a bonus equivalent to over seven weeks’ pay.”
He said this had also been a year “when we upped the pace of innovation and investment,” opening 29 new Waitrose stores, including its Acton dark store for online deliveries only, and three John Lewis shops – more than ever previously opened in a single year. Innovations included the extension of Click & Collect from 55 to 129 shops and the relaunching of the Waitrose.com website, which saw orders rise by 34.5% during the year. Some £21.3m was invested in operational improvements and £27.9m spent on pre-opening costs. “This came at the price of some short-term profit,” said Mayfield, “but leaves us in a good place at the start of this year.”
The openings contributed to a 400,000 rise in the number of transactions as customers shopped across its channels, confirming, said the partnership, its strategy of opening new branches while also developing online shopping and conveniences stores.
“We start this year leaner and fitter and have initiatives underway which will deliver key benefits in the coming years,” said Mayfield. “We have first-class brands that are well-placed to succeed in a changing market.”