Bargain-hunters boost John Lewis sales

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Department store chain John Lewis said today that sales jumped 27.4 per cent last week as bargain-hunters helped it to a "truly inspirational" result.

The group, which has 27 stores and an online division, reported particularly strong trading on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas, as well as on Friday 2 January.

Head of selling development Barry Matheson said a number of factors may have worked in the chain's favour during the week.

He said: "Was it the fall of the calendar? Was it the weather? Was it driven by constant media reports of the bargains to be had? It is difficult to tell, but what we know for sure is that we delivered a truly inspirational result last week with sales 27 per cent ahead of last year."

Online division John Lewis Direct produced its fourth highest week of sales ever, while stores at Southampton and Reading saw improvements of 28 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

John Lewis said this week that sales across Christmas and New Year were up 2.4 per cent on a year earlier, with the figure unchanged on a like-for-like basis.

Mr Matheson added: "In the light of other trading updates we have seen in the press this week, that suggests we managed to gain market share in one of the toughest Christmases I can remember."

He praised staff for the well-executed Christmas campaign but warned that conditions were likely to be difficult for the entire retail sector in the months ahead.

Electricals and home technology and fashion were most in demand during the company's clearance week, with sales up 39.7 per cent and 34.4 per cent respectively. The home department recovered from its recent battering at the hands of the property downturn to report a sales lift of 13.2 per cent in the week.

Freddie George, retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said: "The stores have benefited from consumers spending cash given for Christmas in place of presents and an influx of tourists attracted to spend on the UK high street by the weak pound."

It was also revealed today that Waitrose - the grocery stores arm of the John Lewis Partnership - maintained its recent trading improvement with a 7 per cent rise in sales for the week to 3 January.

Waitrose said: "Customers made the most of the new year, with buoyant sales of party food and champagne. Bitterly cold weather also created excellent growth in meat and root vegetables."