Waitrose staff to get lowest bonus in 67 years as profits fall

John Lewis and Waitrose staff are to receive their lowest bonus in 67 years – if they get one at all – as the company is expected to reveal its third consecutive drop in annual profits.

The independent retail analyst Nick Bubb predicted the John Lewis Partnership will on Thursday announce a bonus worth 2% of annual salary, which would be the lowest since the group skipped the payment in 1953.

“The John Lewis Partnership can’t afford to pay a same-again 3% (which was down from 5% in 2017-18), but it would be pointless to pay only 1%, so the effective choice is between 0% and 2%. It’s a tough call,” Bubb said.

He predicted that John Lewis was more likely to go for 2%, because no bonus would be “dangerously demotivating” for Waitrose staff who have a tough year ahead as they prepare for the supermarket’s split with the delivery firm Ocado, which will tie up with Marks & Spencer from September.

Announcing a zero bonus would also be a tough start for the new chair, Sharon White, who makes her first public appearance on Thursday alongside the publication of the group’s full-year financial results. She took over from Charlie Mayfield in February.

White has already warned staff to prepare for “difficult decisions about stores and about jobs” during what she said was the group’s “most challenging period” since its inception in the 1920s. It is possible that she might provide further details of her plans on Thursday.

While Waitrose’s profits are expected to be broadly in line with last year, the company warned in January that its department stores’ profits are likely to be “substantially down”. As a result, it said group profits would be “significantly lower” than the £160m reported last year.

The new chair has also said she is likely to make some adjustments to a restructuring plan put in place by her predecessor, whichinvolved merging the management teams of Waitrose and John Lewis for the first time. In an interview with the group’s in-house magazine, the Gazette, White said she wanted to ensure the group would not lose the distinctiveness of its brands.

At present, the group is planned to be led by a team of seven who all report directly to White, a move which has led to the departure of the managing directors of both the John Lewis department stores and Waitrose.

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