Internet sales power 25% surge in John Lewis profits

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The Independent Online

The John Lewis Partnership revealed a 25 per cent surge in half-year profits yesterday, powered by a big jump in internet sales and continued appetite for flat-screen televisions.

The department store group, which also owns the Waitrose supermarket chain, achieved 9.2 per cent growth in like-for-like sales at its department stores while Waitrose sales rose by 5.3 per cent.

Group sales climbed 11 per cent to hit £3bn in the first half of the year while pre-tax profits shot up to £97m. The figures were lifted by a 70 per cent surge in sales at the group's online operation, John Lewis Direct, which has become a major part of the business and is now second in sales only to the flagship Oxford Street branch in London.

Sir Stuart Hampson, the chairman, said growth in the internet had been "massive", adding that both sides of the business benefited each other because "a lot of people browse at home and come in to buy and other people go to the stores and then buy on the internet". Online sales were particularly strong during the heatwave "because people found it too hot to go shopping".

The surge in internet sales provided further evidence of the growing importance of online shopping, a day after Next was rescued by buoyant internet and mail order sales while its high street stores struggled.

Ocado, the online business part-owned by John Lewis which delivers Waitrose food to homes, continues to grow and notched up 50,000 deliveries a week before the summer holidays, though it remained in the red.

The World Cup provided another boost to John Lewis as it triggered a flat-screen television craze which continued long after the tournament finished.

John Lewis also announced a £50m investment in the Olympics site at Stratford in east London, becoming the first retailer to commit to the regeneration project. It will build a full-range John Lewis department store and a Waitrose supermarket in the shopping and leisure complex next to the Olympic park for the Games in 2012.