John Lewis revealed its first half figures this morning, revealing an operating profit surge of 188.6% to £29.8m, while like-for-like sales rose 9.2%. Retail Week talks to John Lewis managing director Andy Street about pop up shops, relaunching the web site and Christmas

You had a very strong first half, particularly on profits.  How do you account for that?

It really is a story of sales. We always expected to do well but it was better than expected. We had a really good sales performance in the first half, but the second half will soften a little, as we’re going up against tougher comparables.

There’s no way the profit leap will be as high in the second half.

But we’re still expecting it to be up on last year and to outperform the market. John Lewis is the country’s Christmas shop, it’s all about what happens then. But it’s a nice cushion for us.

How important is having exclusive ranges such as Alice Temperley?

Very important. And not because of the cash it brings in. We need a diet of different things to be innovative. We’re a brand that’s confident in doing different things, like partnering with the Olympics.

The great thing about John Lewis is you can find products from the deeply traditional to the cutting edge.

We’re increasingly becoming a place that brands choose to launch products in, such as the Jamie Oliver cookware range, Barnes and Noble e-reader Nook and new Samsung TVs.

John Lewis is becoming the place that cutting edge brands want to be associated with, because we’re national, democratic and accessible.  

John Lewis’ first pop-up shop opened in Exeter last month. How is it trading and will there be more?

It’s really exciting. The early signs are really good and we expect to do the same in York [before the department store opens] next year. It’s about whetting customers appetites. We had 2,000 customers through last week, and click and collect is doing well there.

What’s the next step for your multichannel offer?

We’ll have our click and collect locations in time for Christmas through Waitrose. And the re-platforming of the website is in final testing stage. It’s a really big deal. We’ve not decided yet when we’ll launch, but hopefully before Christmas. It will feature improved search capability, and much smoother payment [capability], as well as more personalisation on the site. Customers now expect us to know about their product history. We want to emulate the John Lewis store experience online.

John Lewis commercial director Andrea O’Donnell has left the business. How is the search for her replacement going?

We’re at the shortlisting stage and are confident in making a world class appointment well before Christmas.