John Lewis

John Lewis chair: There's been a lot of discounting
John Lewis chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield says trading conditions on the High Street are "really tough".

John Lewis: To pay or not to pay a bonus?

Sir Charlie Mayfield, the boss of John Lewis, says the partnership has been profitable but the decision to pay a bonus will be considered in March - and it may not be wise to pay a bonus this year, the first time it will have been skipped since 1953.

Analysis: Strong sales do not a profit make

Dominic O'Connell

Business Presenter, BBC Radio 4 Today programme

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While we all get execited about the Christmas sales figures, they are not the whole story.

All the companies reporting have spoken about a tough trading environment with widespread discounting, which means turning sales into profits will be difficult – and that those that did not join the race for sales too enthusiastically may be better off in the long-term.

M&S may not have shot the lights out when it comes to sales growth, but it said it saw no reason to change its full-year profits forecast.

John Lewis, however, warned that profits this year would not be as good as last and that it might not pay out its traditional annual bonus to its staff.

The last time it did not pay out was in 1953.

And Debenhams said it was in talks with its lenders, and was looking for bring in “new sources of funding”. It did not say where that money would come from, but it has already shunned an offer of support from Mike Ashley, the chief executive of Sports Direct, which owns a near-30% stake in Debenhams.

The Christmas trading period has simply reinforced what we already knew about the health of the high street – that trading is tough, that those with decent online operations enjoy some degree of protection from that tough trading environment, and that the great high street shakeout that has already claimed Maplins, Toys R Us and others may have only just begun.