The managing director of John Lewis is bowing out and the chairman has warned that staff may miss out on the company bonus.

Paula Nickolds, who has been with the employee-owned retailer since 1994, comes as the department store revealed a 2% like-for-like sales slump in the seven weeks to January 5.

She did not immediately comment.

Ms Nickolds was set to become the new executive director of brand - overseeing both divisions of the partnership - in a newly created role which she was due to take up in February.

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Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, who is also stepping down in February, said: "After some reflection on the responsibilities of her proposed new role, we have decided together that the implementation of the future partnership structure in February is the right time for her to move on and she will leave the partnership with our gratitude and best wishes for the future.

"At the full year, we expect profits in Waitrose & Partners to be broadly in line with last year."

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He said: "In John Lewis & Partners we will reverse the losses incurred in the first half of the year, but profits will be substantially down on last year.

"We therefore expect that partnership profit before exceptionals will be significantly lower than last year."

He added: "The partnership board will meet in February to decide whether it is prudent to pay a partnership bonus.

"The decision will be influenced by our level of profitability, planned investment and maintaining the strength of our balance sheet."