3 months ago • 2 mins
What’s going on here?
John Lewis, the British retail darling, seems to have developed a taste for the red, reporting more losses for the first half of this year.
What does this mean?
For over 150 years, John Lewis has been the go-to for the UK’s middle class, offering everything from posh pots and pans to plush pillows. But lately, even its ritzy regulars are tightening their Gucci belts. Big-ticket buys, like furniture and electrical goods, are on the decline – and the firm’s upmarket grocery chain, Waitrose, isn’t faring much better. After all, it seems the company missed the memo on price cuts, watching sales volumes dip in the first half of the year. So while John Lewis has managed to trim its losses from the same time last year, falling sales and ballooning costs mean it’s still not back in the black.
Why should I care?
For markets: A losing game.
John Lewis is in the middle of a turnaround plan designed to make the company a simpler, more efficient machine – along with some (questionable) offshoots into real estate and financial services. But these results have come as a reality check with a capital “R”. And sure, Christmas could sprinkle some magic: historically, it's been the firm’s time to shine. But hold the mistletoe. John Lewis hinted that its difficulties could last a while yet, delaying the completion of its turnaround plan by two years, till 2028.
The bigger picture: Cash is king.
The plight of John Lewis suggests that British consumers are feeling the pinch – and folks’ recent surprising return to cash backs that up. Despite years of digital banking growth, there was a noticeable uptick in physical money usage last year, for the first time in a decade. And that wasn’t just nostalgia kicking in. Much like during the 2008 financial crisis, uncertain times drive people back to the tangible reassurance (and hard-to-fudge budgeting) of cold, hard cash.
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