Staff bonus as John Lewis banks £252 million profit

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Staff at John Lewis were handed a bonus equivalent to almost eight weeks pay today, as the retailer banked profits of £252 million.

The 10 per cent hike in pre-tax profits came as sales at its 27 department stores and 174 Waitrose supermarkets jumped 8 per cent to £5.8 billion in the year to January 28.

The market-busting performance saw its 63,000 staff - who are partners under John Lewis's worker co-ownership scheme - pocket an annual bonus worth 15 per cent of their salary.

John Lewis said the results came amid the most testing year for the high street in more than a decade, and warned that 2006 would be another tough year.

But it said sales in the five weeks to March 4 were up 8 per cent at John Lewis and 9 per cent at Waitrose.

Last week John Lewis was crowned the most popular store in the UK in a survey of shoppers - while Waitrose came in second.

John Lewis chairman Sir Stuart Hampson said he was "delighted" at the accolade.

"2005 saw some of the most testing retail conditions for well over a decade, but our storming performance in the final quarter delivered a strong improvement in sales and profits for the year," he said.

"Looking ahead, whilst there is every indication that this year will continue to be a tough one and that retailing in 2006 will not be for the faint-hearted, both divisions have made healthy starts to the new trading year."