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How John Lewis Managed to Repay Covid-19 Loan Early

John Lewis & Partners posted better-than-expected sales during the holidays, its owner said on Friday.

The John Lewis Partnership said the trading peak that includes Black Friday and Christmas “held up better than expected. As a result, we expect our full-year profits to be ahead of the profit guidance provided at our half-year results last September, where we said the most likely outcome would be a small loss or a small profit for 2020/21.”

Last September, the parent company said it might suffer its first annual loss due to the impact from the Covid pandemic. And in November, in a cost-cutting move, it shed 1,500 jobs. It also sought and won approval from the Westminster City Council in October to pull back on the square footage at its Oxford Street store to convert about 40 percent of the sales square footage into office space. Earlier in October, the company disclosed a five-year plan to return to profitability, and part of that initiative was to generate more of its business from its online platform. All of that was on top of the cost-cutting that began in July, which included closing some stores and shrinking its payroll.

Friday’s statement also noted that the parent company has repaid the 300 million pound ($409.4 million) Covid loan from the U.K. government. The repayment had been due on March 15.

“Despite the head winds of the last year when John Lewis stores were closed for several months, and future trading volatility, the Partnership believes it has sufficient liquidity going forward,” the parent firm said.

The John Lewis Partnership also owns Waitrose & Partners, a grocery operation, whose food sales are believed to have helped offset the pressures faced by John Lewis.