The struggling John Lewis Partnership is to stop publishing its weekly sales figures and said it would in future provide updates on its trading only every six months.
The decision to keep a lid on its sales figures – which have detailed the performance of the department stores and the Waitrose supermarket chain by department compared with the previous two years – comes as the group’s department store business in particular is struggling.
The profitability of the employee-owned business has collapsed amid tough times on the high street that have seen rivals Debenhams and House of Fraser succumb to rescue deals. The change also coincides with the arrival of a new chair, Sharon White, who next week formally takes over the reins from Sir Charlie Mayfield.
In recent years the weekly data has laid out the problems facing the group, and other retailers, and was used by City analysts as a gauge of high street conditions.
Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club forecasting group, said in a tweet: “Shame – have been times when seeing the weekly John Lewis sales data has been very useful in trying to gauge the state of retail sales and consumer spending.”
White will inherit a business at a crossroads. Earlier this month the company told staff their annual bonus was in jeopardy after another big fall in profits at the department stores. It is the second year in a row that such a warning had been issued after Christmas. The department stores boss, Paula Nickolds, who was promoted last autumn, is now leaving.
The group has embarked on a high-stakes management overhaul in which its department stores and Waitrose supermarkets will run as one business, rather than two, for the first time. The radical shake-up, also announced last autumn, has resulted in a big cull at head office with one in three senior management posts – 75 out of 225 – being cut as part of a drive to save £100m.
The separate Waitrose and John Lewis boards have been abolished and replaced with one, eight-strong executive team working across both retail brands. Three directors – to cover the business areas of trading, strategy and brand – are yet to be appointed.
The format of the six-monthly updates on its financial performance will now change as the two chains are knitted together.