The John Lewis Partnership has posted a 19.6% slide in half-year profits, despite a resurgent performance from its Waitrose supermarket chain.

Waitrose operating profit, excluding property, rose 18.7% to £121.1m in the six months to August 1, buoyed by the launch of its value Essential range and free online delivery offer. Gross sales were up 7.4% to £2.18bn, and like-for-like sales were up 1.8%.

At John Lewis, operating profit, excluding property, was down 49% to £20.9m. Gross sales were down 2.9% to £1.21bn, and like-for-like sales were down 4.7%.

Overall, John Lewis Partnership pre-tax profit fell 19.6% to £86.3m. Operating profit, excluding property, is up 0.2% to £126.2m.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield said: “We’re pleased with our first half performance, the result of our early response to the downturn, the slight easing of trading conditions and, crucially, the action we’ve taken to build momentum in every part of the business. We moved from flat sales in the first quarter to a 7% increase in the second, which gives us confidence in the power of the significant initiatives to drive the business forward.”