John Lewis has confirmed that staff will not receive a bonus for the first time since 1953 after it was hit by lockdown store closures.
The retailer – which also owns Waitrose – said it posted a £55m loss for the six months to 25 July after higher costs offset a 1% rise in sales.
Its chairwoman told staff on Thursday the announcement “will come as a blow”.
Even before Covid-19 hit, the chain had warned it might not pay the usual staff bonus as competition ate into profits.
The last time that the chain, which operates as a partnership, decided not to pay a bonus to its staff was in the aftermath of World War Two.
Chairwoman Dame Sharon White said: “We came through then to be even stronger and we will do so again.”
She added: “I know this will come as a blow to partners who have worked so hard this year. The decision in no way detracts from the commitment and dedication that you have shown.”
The retailer said store closures during lockdown and customers buying less profitable items, such as toilet paper or laptops, had hit trade.
It estimated that in its first half, John Lewis shops took a hit of £200m in sales, while the wider group saw additional coronavirus-related costs total about £50m.
But in a statement, it said that Waitrose had seen “a return to the weekly shop”, with like-for-like sales in Waitrose, which strip out the effect of new stores opening, up 10% year-on-year.
Dame Sharon said the pandemic had brought forward changes in consumer shopping habits “which might have taken five years into five months”.