INCREASED sales at the John Lewis retail chain have earned staff a bonus worth almost eight weeks' pay.

The company is a partnership owned by its staff, with a bonus paid once a year as a percentage of salary.

The retailer operates 304 Waitrose stores and 40 John Lewis branches, including 10 John Lewis at Home shops. It has 91,000 staff nationwide.

At the Branksome Retail Park branch of John Lewis at Home, staff gathered to hear the figure announced at 9.25am.

Store manager Jeremy Andrews said: “We had a particularly strong Christmas as a group and here in Poole we out-performed that.”

But he said the figure was based on the whole year's performance.

He said the business was now “omni-focussed”, offering an improved experience for click-and-collect customers as well as shoppers in person.

He added: “We're all co-owners in the business. Everything we do has an impact on today's result. Being a co-owner means you take responsibility, we share ideas, we work together. It's about taking ownership rather than thinking it's somebody else's business.”

Staff who were celebrating included Craig Neil, department store manager for commercial support, who was planning to take wife Katie and 14-month-old daughter Delyth on a Meditteranean cruise. Other staff were planning for holidays, children's university fees, car puchases or to put the money into the company's Bonus Save scheme.

Gross sales in John Lewis and Waitrose stores combined were up by 6.6 per cent to more than £10bn, the company announced. The rise was six per cent for Waitrose and 7.5 per cent for John Lewis.

Operating profit was down £423.6m, down 6.6 per cent on last year including an exceptional cost of £47.3m following a review of holiday pay policy. Excluding the exceptional item, operating profit was £470.9m, up 3.9 per cent.