John Lewis reports tough week

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Department store chain John Lewis today said consumers continued to rein in spending after sales tumbled 7.6 per cent in the week to last Saturday.

The drop on a year earlier to £48.2 million featured a sales decline of 9.6 per cent in electricals and home technology and a 13.5 per cent fall for the group's Home department. Fashion held up well with an improvement of 0.9 per cent.

John Lewis said the economic climate had knocked consumer confidence, although it pointed out that annual comparisons were difficult because many school half terms were being held in different weeks from last year.

Seventeen of the company's 27 stores recorded double-digit percentage sales falls, including 19.9 per cent decline at Southampton and 25 per cent at Peterborough.

The company's online operation saw growth slow to 5.7 per cent in the week, a sharp deterioration on the rate of 26.1 per cent seen over a wider 12 week period.

Selling operations director Dan Knowles said he was confident that John Lewis continued to outperform the rest of the market.

He said: "The good news is that all areas under our direct control - stock levels, customer service, profit margins and availability - are all performing well.

"We also know that if it's tough for John Lewis, the chances are it's even tougher for everyone else. Our task remains to outperform the wider market, and all indications are that we continue to do so."

Today's decline of 7.6 per cent follows a drop of 4.8 per cent last week and means sales are running 0.4 per cent lower in the first 12 weeks of the financial half-year.

The chain said it also had to contend with flooding at four branches during the week, at Welwyn, Reading and Brent Cross and Peter Jones in London.

At supermarket Waitrose, which is also part of the John Lewis Partnership, sales rose by 0.5 per cent in the week. It said promotional activity continued to exceed expectations, with offers of free custard with a pie or crumble and a bag of five seasonable vegetables for £4 both proving popular.