John Lewis boss Andy Street: Black Friday broke records but I’d prefer normality

The week of Black Friday was the most lucrative in John Lewis’s 150-year history

The boss of John Lewis has criticised the new sales phenomenon of Black Friday as an organisational headache, despite figures revealing that the imported US shopping craze helped the department store to record its best ever sales week.

John Lewis’s managing director, Andy Street, told The Independent that the one-off discount day on 28 November was difficult to manage. He said: “If it is big in the market next year then we will continue to do it: we won’t blink on that. But do I personally hope we move back in future to a more normal pattern? Yes. If you have a huge peak in one day it is just more difficult to organise.”

It comes as figures out today reveal that the week of Black Friday was the most lucrative in John Lewis’s 150-year history and the best out of the five festive trading weeks to 27 December – a massive shift from the norm, when sales make a crescendo towards Christmas. 28 November also marked John Lewis’s biggest day for online sales ever, with traffic to the retailer’s website 300 per cent higher than normal in the early hours of the day.

Mr Street’s comments come after Next’s chief executive, Lord Wolfson, told The Independent that Black Friday was “pointless” as it simply shifted Christmas sales forward by a few weeks. Next did not take part.

Mr Street said: “What Simon Wolfson was getting at was that in total there is little more demand over the period despite Black Friday. That appears to be correct.”

Black Friday, held the Friday after Thanksgiving, was introduced to the UK by Asda, which is owned by the US retail giant Walmart.

 

John Lewis took part wholeheartedly in the US-imported marketing frenzy this year, along with most big companies, and the department store said electrical goods were its best sellers.

Mr Street said Black Friday did have the benefit of proving to John Lewis customers that it could deliver online orders reliably. He said: “The fact is that Black Friday is very much online as well as in shops. In fact, it was our biggest online day ever. What it enabled us to do was prove to lots of people that, if you order online with us, you will get your order quickly. Hopefully, they will remember that for the rest of the year.”

Marks & Spencer faced criticism in the run-up to Christmas after customers’ online orders were delayed.

Employee-owned John Lewis saw total sales for the five weeks to 27 December rise to £777m, 5.8 per cent more than the previous year. Online sales were 19 per cent higher compared to the same weeks a year earlier.

Christmas favourites were the NutriBullet smoothie maker, which was promoted heavily in store, and wearable fitness trackers. Cashmere and home fragrances were also popular, along with Nespresso coffee machines.

“We are very satisfied and we think that will compare well with the market,” Mr Street said.

He added that the days since the 27th have “looked good” with many people off work for an extended Christmas and New Year break.

“Looking ahead, I’d say we’re quietly confident, planning for steady growth. But it’s not exuberant. It’s not a boom, but a modest recovery.”

John Lewis plans to open sites in Horsham and Basingstoke this year, as well as a regional flagship in Birmingham, due to open in September.

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