John Lewis reported a decline in first-half profit amid "continuing challenging trading conditions," but has accelerated investments in its future growth.

The retailer today (14 September) said consolidated profit before tax was down 18.2% to GBP90.4m (US$142.8m). The decline came despite a 5% increase in sales, which reached GBP3.62bn.

The company's John Lewis department stores reported a 54.5% decline in operating profit to GBP15.8m. Sales in the division were up 2.5% to GBP1.42bn. Like-for-like sales increased 1%. Fashion sales grew 4.2% over the half.

The company said that it increased its capital expenditure over the first half by GBP99m to GBP254m.

Commenting on the department store chain's performance, chairman Charlie Mayfield said that profits were impacted by its commitment to being "'Never Knowingly Undersold" as well as a highly competitive trading environment.

"Trading conditions are set to remain challenging through the rest of this year and into 2012.

"We are not simply waiting for the recovery, but instead we have increased the pace of investment and innovation across the Partnership putting us in the best possible position to seize the opportunity created by a rapidly changing retail environment. Our momentum is strong and I am confident we will build on that in the second half," said Mayfield.