John Lewis has paid out its lowest bonus to staff since the 1950s as profits plunged last year amid “challenging” trading.
The retail partnership – which includes Waitrose supermarkets – said staff would receive a 3% bonus, the lowest since 1954 when workers received 4%.
The annual staff bonus has been reduced every year for the past six years due to difficult trading conditions.
Profits at the partnership sank last year by more than 45% to £160m.
The company said the overall retail market continued to be “challenging”.
“That’s evident in our results, especially in John Lewis & Partners, where we saw near constant discounting across many categories from October onwards in response to the combination of subdued demand, excess retail space and some other retailers’ distress,” it said.
John Lewis’ structure is unique. It is owned by its staff, known as partners.
Typically in profitable years, staff at the 350 Waitrose and 51 John Lewis stores receive a share of the profits. In the very best years, these bonuses can add the equivalent of a few months’ worth of pay.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said the lower bonus would help the company to preserve cash and invest “to cope with the continuing uncertainty facing consumers and the economy”.