John Lewis managing director Andy Street has apologised “unreservedly” for anti-French comments he made at an internal event.

Street described France as “sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat” on Wednesday night, adding that the country was “finished”. The story was plastered on the front page of The Times today.

In a statement this afternoon Street said: “The remarks I made were supposed to be light-hearted views, and tongue-in-cheek. On reflection I clearly went too far. I regret the comments, and apologise unreservedly.”

Street made the off-the-cuff comments as he was speaking to an audience of entrepreneurs to mark the culmination of John Lewis’s JLab initiative.