The chairman of retail giant John Lewis has called for a “serious parliamentary debate” on Brexit after profits at the group tanked as it was hit by falling consumer demand and cost increases linked to the weak pound.
Sir Charlie Mayfield added his voice to a chorus of business leaders around the Brexit argument as fears mount that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal.
“Brexit is having an impact on everyone, sterling is weaker and confidence is being affected,” he said.
“There needs to be a serious parliamentary debate to find the best way forward for the country and the economy. The core principles need to be thrashed out. If they’re not, there is a greater risk of a disorderly outcome.”
His comments came as the John Lewis Partnership blamed falling consumer demand and Brexit linked cost increases for profits more than halving.
The group, which owns the eponymous department store and supermarket Waitrose, saw pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of July plunge 53.3% to £26.6 million.
The figure includes exceptional items linked to restructuring, property and redundancy costs.
Sir Charlie said the group suffered in categories linked to the housing market, which has exhibited a marked slowdown since the EU vote.
“The first half of this year has seen inflationary pressures driven by exchange rates and political uncertainty,” he said.
“These have dampened customer demand, especially in categories connected to the housing market. The exchange rate-driven increase in cost prices has also put pressure on margin.”