John Lewis staff celebrate bumper pay day

The John Lewis Partnership may be one of Britain’s most understated businesses, but it never knowingly underplays the one day of the year when staff get to celebrate their bonus. Yesterday was no exception.

The Times reports that Nervous staff thronged the escalators and giddily clung to store railings as they peered down at Karen Lord, who manages the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.

In a countdown worthy of the best Hogmanay celebrations, Ms Lord opened a big white envelope to reveal the all important number: 10 per cent. It is a figure that for the 91,500 “partners” who work at John Lewis and Waitrose — and co-own the trust that owns them — translates to a bonus equivalent to more than five weeks’ pay.

The annual bonus extravaganza is arguably the most dramatic embodiment of the partnership’s co-ownership model and was met by resounding cheers and clapping from the staff in Oxford Street.

There was no evidence in sight that partners were disgruntled at the figure, which is down from 11 per cent the year before and reflects the third consecutive fall in the annual bonus. Huw Davis, who was made redundant 18 months ago before securing a job in the ladies lingerie, hats and shoe department at John Lewis, said that this was his second bonus since joining and “just as exciting”.

Mr Davis, 52, who had to see off 700 initial applicants for his role, said: “I don’t know what I am going to do with my bonus yet; at this time of my life I may have to be sensible and put it into my pension pot.”
Charlie McCarter, 26, who has worked for John Lewis for nearly six years in its food and catering division, said his girlfriend already had her eye on a romantic holiday to Cuba. “We can even use the partnership discount for that [booking the trip],” he said.

Mark Price, the outgoing head of Waitrose who is leaving to take up a ministerial post, was also feeling “really happy” yesterday. The self-styled “chubby grocer” said that he was pleased to be leaving Waitrose in rude health and was looking forward to promoting British exports abroad — starting with lobsters.

Britain has the best lobsters off the coast of Norfolk, where they hide until their meat is juicy and sweet. These are the lobsters you find in Waitrose, he said, taking a swipe at Morrison’s £10 Christmas lobster (an inferior salty version from the North American coast). “Not all lobsters are the same you know,” he said.