THE owner of John Lewis and Waitrose has recorded its first ever losses – but promised a “new concept” in its Southampton department store this autumn.

The John Lewis Partnership also warned that the impact of a no-deal Brexit would be “significant” and impossible to offset.

It reported underlying losses of £25.9million for the six months to July 27, after profits of £800,000 a year earlier.

Operating losses at its John Lewis department stores rose from £19.3m to £61.8m amidst falling sales, the costs of an IT overhaul and increasing cost inflation.

But the company – whose John Lewis store is an anchor tenant at Westquay – said it was investing in “service excellence”.

It said: “We will also explore how shops can become ever more meaningful in our customers’ lives as partner-led services and immersive experiences from both our brands will take centre stage on every floor in a new concept in Southampton from November onwards.”

Jeff Bray, senior lecturer in marketing and retail management at Bournemouth University, said it was “more difficult than ever” for high street retailers and especially department stores.

“We’re falling out of love with the department store. They were the place we could get everything but online there’s a far bigger range than any store could hold,” he said.

“But John Lewis remains the fittest of the big department store chains. These numbers look very good in comparison to House of Fraser and Debenhams. I personally still feel quite confident that John Lewis could be the last man standing among that group and could benefit therefore from their competitors struggling in the future.”

He added: “John Lewis has been really good at continuing to invest in the business. Their stores generally are quite up to date, are in far better condition than their competitors and have embraced digital far better than their competitors.”

The company had also been good at “experiential retailing”, where shoppers enjoy the shopping environment rather than just the products.

The John Lewis Partnership’s outgoing chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield, gave a stark warning about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “Should the UK leave the EU without a deal, we expect the effect to be significant and it will not be possible to mitigate that impact.

“In readiness, we have ensured our financial resilience and taken steps to increase our foreign currency hedging, to build stock where that is sensible, and to improve customs readiness.”

He warned that Brexit “continues to weigh on consumer sentiment at a crucial time for the sector as we enter the peak trading period”.

Dr Bray said: “Clearly any retailer would be concerned about Brexit, especially fresh food production, but in my opinion this is a slightly politicised results statement for John Lewis, which surprised me a little bit.”

He said Brexit had become “the new weather”, regularly mentioned in retailers’ results as a reason for disappointing sales. He added: “That doesn’t mean Brexit won’t bring significant challenges and it may be more acute for a retailer like Waitrose than other retailers, because they pride themselves on having a deep range of products.”

Hampshire’s Waitrose branches include those at Westquay and Portswood in Southampton, Chandlers Ford, Romsey, Locks Heath and Dibden.