Decent, fair, responsible John Lewis. That's the carefully preserved PR image, at least. The retailer has even won praise from Government for its co-operative business model.

But is the default store of choice for the middle classes right to demand discounts from suppliers - up to 5.25% on sales - if their goods sell well?


Beaten on price

Not everyone thinks so. Robert Downes represents the Forum of Private Business and isn't impressed. "What they're saying," he told AOL, "is that if you're a John Lewis supplier, if that product line increases sales till next March, they will take a discount off you for the total year. Penalising suppliers - you're penalised for successful lines."

The practice is not unknown - several supermarkets are thought to regularly adopt it. But John Lewis is hardly a struggling supermarket. Last week, it handed almost 85,000 staff a cash bonus - in total worth £120m - representing 17% of an overall annual salary on the back of record annual sales.

Too greedy?

In an emailed statement, John Lewis defended the new practice. "We create partnerships with our suppliers with the intention of mutual growth and sharing the proceeds. The intention at all times is to develop a long-term business with benefits for our Partners and a sustainable growth opportunity for our supply base."

However at John Lewis's current level of success, there are few question being asked about whether its business is 'sustainable' or 'long term' or otherwise.

John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield, for the record, is on a salary of around £825,000. The store claims heavy investment - around £200m - in new stores and refurbishment projects - is also on the cards, extending its partnership agreement with Waitrose.