John Lewis Partnership is to invest a record £500m in 2011 and indicated that the John Lewis chain will be ready to expand overseas by the year’s end.

It is thought that £240m of the total investment has been earmarked for John Lewis, and the remainder for Waitrose.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield told The Sun that 1,250 jobs would be created at the employee-owned department store business during the year as it prepares to open more stores.

The 28-store John Lewis said yesterday that it had record sales over the Christmas period, with sales up 8.9% in the five weeks to January 1.

John Lewis will anchor the Westfield Stratford site when it opens this year and plans to have more John Lewis Home stores.

Mayfield said that a decision to open overseas could come in 2011. He said: “There are really big markets out there.”

John Lewis has in the past played down speculation that it was gearing up for an overseas push. In November, John Lewis was reported to be in the final stages of agreeing a deal with Dubai-based developer, Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate, to open stores across the Middle East. John Lewis declined to comment at the time.

Mayfield added that the economy is “more robust than people think”.

He added: “There will be people who are hit very, very hard. But equally there will be others who are not.”