Employees at John Lewis and Waitrose are braced for their first bonus cut in three years as the employee-owned firm shows it is not immune from the economic downturn.

John Lewis Partnership publishes full-year results on Wednesday, when analysts expect it to announce a payout of between 12% and 14% of salary for the 77,000 staff, known as partners.

They were awarded 18% of salary from a bonus pot of £194.5 million last year, meaning the first reduction since 2009.

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy Conlumino, told the Financial Times: “Although John Lewis is outstanding in many ways, it is not immune from the wider pressures on the economy, and inevitably this will affect the bonus.”

In September, John Lewis announced half-year profits fell by almost a fifth to £90.4 million after it was hurt by its promise never to be beaten on price, forcing it to match rivals’ promotions.

One analyst has forecast pre-tax profits for the full year of £350 million, which compares with £366 million last year.

In weekly figures published today, John Lewis said department store sales for the seven days to last Saturday were flat on a year earlier at £54 million.

However, the performance was distorted by the timing of the half-term holiday and John Lewis pointed out that sales across February were 5.7% higher than last year.

Next week’s results are expected to highlight market share gains for grocery chain Waitrose, which has rolled out new stores and targeted more of the convenience sector.

John Lewis department stores were also boosted by strong online growth in 2011 but profits came under pressure from its ‘never knowingly undersold’ policy.

It saw a strong Christmas helped by a highly acclaimed advertising campaign that featured a boy itching for Christmas Day to arrive so he could give gifts to his parents.