John Lewis and Waitrose staff will receive bonuses worth 17% of salary after the group shrugged off tough high street conditions to report a 15.8% surge in annual profits.

The John Lewis Partnership said its 84,700 employees would receive the equivalent of nearly nine weeks' pay after increasing its total bonus pot to £210.8 million.

Each worker - from weekend check-out assistants to chairman Charlie Mayfield - receives the same percentage of salary as a bonus.

Hundreds of staff at Solihull's John Lewis store in Touchwood gathered to see business protection worker Kate Richman end the suspense by opening the letter which revealed a better than expected bonus for the chain’s 84,700 workforce.

Managing director of the Solihull store Julie Blake said: “We were expecting around 15 or 16 per cent so to get 17 per cent is just superb. That sort of figure in this economic climate is quite remarkable – the economy is still in a very fragile state.

“It is fair to say that we have gained quite a bit of market share, particularly because some of the names on the High Street have fallen away, if you think about the electrical sector, and we have attracted some new customers into John Lewis to buy TVs and radios.

“What is special about our business is that we are all co-owners, we are all partners.

“It does give us an incentive – we are all working every year towards a bonus.”

The employee-owned firm unveiled the haul after reporting pre-tax, pre-bonus profits of £409.6 million for the 12 months to January 26 and said the current year had started well, with like-for-like sales up 13.7% at its department store chain.

The results are a return to profits growth for the retail giant after it suffered a 4% fall the previous year, triggering the first bonus decline in three years.

Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said: "This has been a good year for the partnership with growth in sales and profit above our expectations."

The group hailed its website as a key reason for its success, with sales up 41% to £959 million and accounting for a quarter of trade, while online sales at Waitrose rose by 49% over the year.

Sales in its department store chain rose 10.5% on a like-for-like basis thanks to strong demand on

Stripping out the online effect, like-for-like sales rose 2.6% across its shops.

Comparable store sales rose 3.4% excluding petrol at its Waitrose supermarket arm, helped by its Brand Price Match offer.

The group said it benefited from an acceleration of sales growth in the final quarter, up 12% across the department stores, despite the snow disruption that hit many other retailers.

However it warned that sales growth would be slower this year as the market remains "subdued".

John Lewis has 39 department stores across the UK, 255 Waitrose supermarkets and 35 Waitrose convenience stores.