The company has posted losses of £25.9m for the first half of the year, also blaming the shifting retail landscape.
John Lewis said in its half-year results that if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, the effect would be “significant”, warning that it would “not be possible to mitigate that impact”.
John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said that the UK’s exit from the EU could worsen already difficult trading conditions, as the threat of economic turmoil continued to “weigh on consumer sentiment at a crucial time for the sector, as we enter the peak trading period”. He added that John Lewis had been preparing for Brexit by reducing debt, increasing its foreign currency hedging and stockpiling where possible.
The department store sector has suffered recently due to changing shopping habits and the rising cost of running large stores. Sir Charlie said that he expected retail conditions to remain tough throughout 2019, although he said the second half of the year was typically stronger for the retailer. He stated that UK retail was changing rapidly, amid what he described as “the re-drawing of the UK retail landscape.”
In March, John Lewis Partnership slashed staff bonuses at both John Lewis and Waitrose to the lowest level in 66 years, as the company’s 83,900 workforce, known as partners, received a payout of just 3% of their annual salary, down from 18% in 2011 and the lowest level since 1953.