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Bonus joy for John Lewis ‘partners’ in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:21 06 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:21 06 March 2014

Staff at John Lewis in Norwich celebrate their annual bonus of 15%. Photo: Bill Smith

Staff at John Lewis in Norwich celebrate their annual bonus of 15%. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

The noise of party poppers brought a carnival atmosphere to the centre of Norwich today as John Lewis staff, known as partners, celebrated their annual bonus worth 15pc of salary.

The eagerly awaited announcement concerning the size of the award was delivered at 9.25am at the same time as the financial results of the John Lewis Partnership, which also includes Waitrose supermarkets.

The employee-owned company blamed the increased cost of servicing the group’s £1bn pension fund deficit for the decision to cut the bonus from last year’s salary percentage of 17pc despite annual pre-tax profits rising almost 10pc to £376m for the 52 weeks to January 25.

However, the beaming faces of Norwich staff showed there was little if any disappointment.

Women’s fashion merchandiser Bonnie Paul, 25, said she is putting her bonus - worth nearly eight weeks salary - towards an exotic honeymoon.

She said: “I am getting married at Easton Grange in Suffolk in May and afterwards my husband Nico and I are going on a short honeymoon to Santorini. We are putting my bonus towards saving for a longer exotic honeymoon next year. It’s so nice to have this reward from John Lewis to put towards a once in a lifetime event.”

Customer support assistant Alex Dravec-Delf, 44, who originally hails from Croatia and has been a partner at John Lewis in Norwich for 13 years, said the cash would enable her to bring her two teenage nieces and best friend’s son over to England for the summer holidays.

She said: “My nieces have not spent a lot of time in England before so I’m keen to show them the sights. I’m intending to treat them to a trip to London as well as taking them to events and museums around Norfolk. I will also be enrolling them in English classes.

“I think the bonus is a great motivator to help us work harder and offer even greater customer service as the more we put in, the more we get out.”

Trevor Lightening, 67, a sales assistant for beds and lighting, has been a partner for 17 years and is planning to buy a new caravan with his bonus.

He said: “Over the years, I’ve spent my bonus on a whole range of different things. The buzz in the shop during the weeks leading up to the announcement is brilliant and the day itself is a real celebration. Now that I only work two days a week, I’m hoping to be able to go away on holiday more and a new caravan to make this possible.”

Judith Corder, 43, visual merchandising section manager, has been with John Lewis for 20 years and is using her bonus to complete a music tour of America to celebrate her late father’s life.

She said: “Sadly my dad passed away in 2012, so I’m putting my bonus towards a tour of America with my mum, sister and brother-in-law to celebrate his life. The tour starts in September and stops in southern music capitals Nashville, New Orleans and Graceland.”

The bonus celebration came in head of branch Richard Marks’ first week back at Norwich after nearly two years working in stores at Peterborough, Kingston and Leicester.

The father of four had earlier spent 20 of his 33 years at John Lewis as general manager - store number two - in Norwich.

He said: “In my first spell in Norwich I oversaw many changes, including the move to seven days a week trading and, most recently, the £7m refurbishment of the store two years ago.”

He said he was “absolutely thrilled” to be back in the city and congratulated his Norwich team’s efforts in achieving a record year with sales up 3pc on the year before.

“It shows that the refurbishment has absolutely delivered and there are already signs this year of an improving economy; for example we have seen better trading in our Home department in the last two weeks,” he said.

Mr Marks said he felt the bonus scheme - all 91,000 John Lewis and Waitrose staff receive it - made a “massive difference”.

“Partners feel they play an important part in the business by sharing in the profits; the government has recently talked a lot about the ‘John Lewis model’ and I am surprised other companies don’t copy it,” he said.

He said the company was also good at sharing information with partners, through a weekly magazine, and partners were given an important voice through the company’s democratic channels.

“We have a lot of long service partners and we celebrate 25 years service by giving partners six months paid leave,” he said.

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