John Lewis sale week fails to bring in shoppers

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The Independent Online

More evidence that the flurry of last-minute Christmas shopping tailed off during the sales week emerged yesterday from John Lewis Partnership, which said turnover during its clearance sale at its department stores fell 1.7 per cent last week.

This was a dramatic slowdown from the 27.7 per cent increase the department stores saw the previous week up to Christmas Eve. That week benefited from an additional day's trading due to the timing of Christmas Day.

Although retailers have reported a strong start to the Christmas sales period, the number of people out shopping tailed off as the week progressed. Analysts are unsure whether this reflected shopper fatigue, cashflow problems or a lack of remaining bargains since retailers did not have as much stock left to shift as the previous year.

A strong showing from Waitrose, the Partnership's food chain, boosted total group sales to 3.5 per cent during the week to 31 December as amateur chefs splashed out for New Year's Eve feasts. Waitrose sales rose 10.1 per cent during that period. Again the rise in group sales was a slowdown from the 24 per cent achieved the previous week.

The slowdown did not stop John Lewis hailing its Christmas as a triumph, given that it clocked up three successive record weeks. Its clearance sale saw strong demand for electricals and home technology.

Another food retailer to have done well was Julian Graves, which is owned by Iceland's Baugur. It said like-for-like sales rose 10 per cent during December, buoyed by demand for healthier party snacks.

The trend for shopping from home, which helped Next's Directory arm to report a 14 per cent sales increase this week, boded well for the TV shopping company Ideal Shopping Direct. The AIM-listed mail group was bullish about its prospects after sales in November and December soared by 20 per cent. It said full-year profits be more than £7m, meeting market expectations. Sales during the second half of its year rose 15 per cent.