The new chairman of John Lewis unveiled a 50.6% rise in half-year pretax profits, but called for a reality check over the health of the high street yesterday. The Times. The Daily Telegraph. Financial Times

Charlie Mayfield, who took over from Sir Stuart Hampson in March, said the retailing sector is in danger of talking itself into a slowdown over fears that interest rates will hit spending.

He said that despite obvious caution over prospects in the run-up to Christmas, ‘the market is not in meltdown’.

‘Retailers are programmed to be nervous about Christmas, it always looks daunting. But we are not talking about a recession. It’s been much, much worse in the past and the underlying economy remains actually pretty strong.

‘We are seeing pretty good growth and it’s in areas you would not expect, such as furniture. There’s a danger we get ahead of ourselves here.’

The first Waitrose food hall in a John Lewis store is to open in three weeks as the group continues a £61.5m redevelopment of its flagship site in Oxford Street, London.