John Lewis Returns to Profit as Fashion Sales Surge

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Due in large part to its numerous issues over the past few years, John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is currently one of the most followed UK retail behemoths. At least it returned to profit as predicted in Thursday’s yearly results.

After a deficit of £78 million the previous year, the 52 weeks ending in late January showed a profit before tax and exceptional items of £42 million, a significant increase. Additionally, before taxes and one-time items, the profit was £56 million, an improvement of £290 million over the previous year.

Partnership sales were £12.4 billion, up just 1% from the previous year, but the margin improvement was essential in turning a profit, and operating profit margins increased by 1.2 percentage points over the period.

The company announced that 22.6 million consumers shopped with them during the year, an increase of 1 million over the previous year. Net cash generated from operating activities more than doubled to £433 million, which is good news on the financial front as well. They were able to self-fund their transformation because their overall liquidity climbed to £1.7 billion.

That is of paramount importance to the company because it is unable to obtain capital through traditional ways, such as the issuance of shares or the recruitment of outside investors, due to its mutual status as held by employees (referred to as Partners).

This year, the business plans to spend £542 million, up from £312 million in 2023/24, thanks to the stronger results, which will allow it to accelerate investment. It will also be able to invest in increased wages, which is important for its personnel. It has stated that investing in compensation and business improvement is more important than offering a bonus again this year.

Taking a closer look at the numbers, the owner of the Waitrose grocery chain and the John Lewis department store chains announced that overall income was up 2% at £10.8 billion, even though sales for the company increased by just 1%. There was a 0.6% rise in the gross margin rate. Additional efficiency gains of £111 million bolstered profit growth during the year.

Waitrose has now achieved eight consecutive quarters of growth in client numbers, with sales increasing 5% to £7.7 billion.

Cosmetics and clothing sales rise

Reuters

Despite the company’s assertion that “in a challenging year for the sector, we delivered improved profitability in John Lewis helped by improved gross margin rate and productivity,” the John Lewis chain faced tougher circumstances.

However, with £4.8 billion in sales, John Lewis saw a 4% decline. On the plus side, revenues in the fashion industry (which includes the beauty industry) were higher compared to the previous year. The company’s record-breaking 13.4 million consumers “underlined the reach of the brand,” even though revenues in the Home and Technology categories were lower.

With an increase of £13 million from the previous year, the John Lewis chain’s trading operational profit came to £689 million. The one percentage point gain in gross margin and the savings in supply chain and store efficiency were the foundations of this improvement.

 

News agency Reuters

It added 170 new products and, as its customers kept coming back for “independent, unbiased advice,” it expanded its Partners to include over 200 people who specialize in fashion personal styling (a 27 percent increase in appointments), nursery (a 25 percent increase in appointments), and home (a 5 percent increase in appointments).

It continued to improve the customer experience across the board for John Lewis app and website, added additional installment payment options, and more. App use is a rising part of sales, and 53% of its customers utilize digital methods to shop.

Thinking forward

 

Regarding what’s to come, word on the street is that the business will be pouring more resources into expansion next year. We want to “invest in updating our technology, renovating our stores, and streamlining our processes” with the bulk of the windfall.

“We will revitalise our Home category, introduce 80 new brands to our offer to customers, and strengthen our own-brand,” the company said of its John Lewis division. We are continuing to invest in value, enhancing visual merchandising in stores, and investing in technology to improve customer service. Streamlined navigation and tailored product suggestions are two ways we plan to enhance our online store.

It continues to view its expansion into financial services and build-to-let housing as crucial to its strategy, despite criticism that it has strayed from its original concentration on retail.

Over 97,000 new Partnership Card clients were added in 2023/24, bringing the total to just under one million, while income across all of its financial services products was up 15%. “Transforming retail property into residential homes will enhance the strength of our balance sheet” was also mentioned.

“Significant progress” has been lauded by Chairman Sharon White, who acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done.


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Ethan Sullivan

Ethan's penchant for the pulse of the fashion world extends to covering lifestyle topics, offering readers a seamless blend of the latest style updates and lifestyle trends.

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