60% jump in profits for John Lewis

John LewisJohn Lewis posted a 60% jump in profits as Britain's summer of special events helped the stores and grocery chain weather the economic downturn.

The employee-owned partnership, which has 37 John Lewis shops and 284 Waitrose supermarkets, also credited strong online growth for an 8.6% rise in revenues to £3.9 billion and profits of £144.5 million in the six months to July 28.

It said consumer demand remained fragile but that its department stores still enjoyed like-for-like sales growth of 8.5% in the following six weeks, close to the 9.2% improvement over the previous six months.

As the official department store of London 2012, the group has benefited from sales linked to the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the Diamond Jubilee.

The stores group also picked up business from the launch of new technology, such as Apple's iPad and the switchover to digital television.

The performance represents a strong recovery from the previous financial year, when the group's price-match promise triggered the first profits fall since 2009 and a cut in the staff bonus from 18% to 14% of salary.

The business warned that investment costs meant the pace of growth seen in the first half of this year was unlikely to be maintained over the second half, although the rate of growth will remain positive.

Operating profits in the first half at John Lewis department stores jumped 188% to £45.6 million, while Waitrose rose 29% to £142 million.

Waitrose opened 10 new branches in the half year, including six convenience stores, and also improved online sales by 50% with deliveries now available from 147 branches as well as its distribution centre in west London.

The department stores business generated online sales of £375.8 million in the six months, an increase of 43% on a year earlier. Looking ahead, Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield said: "Consumer demand remains fragile, but has stabilised and we continue to see opportunities to grow market share."

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