John Lewis Partnership today said department store sales slid 9.8 per cent during another tough week for the retailer.
The earlier timing of last year's half-term holidays may have impacted on the figure to last Saturday, but John Lewis said it was clear that customers were being "far more judicious" in their spending amid the economic downturn.
Home sales were off 17.3 per cent in the week, while electricals and home technology fell 9.6 per cent and fashion declined 1.3 per cent. Four stores saw sales fall by more than a fifth, with Milton Keynes off 25.7 per cent, Cribbs Causeway in Bristol down by 20.3 per cent, Southampton off 21.7 per cent and Watford 21.6 per cent lower.
Seymour Pierce retail analyst Freddie George said the figures were "again disappointing" but noted that the result would have been affected by half-term and discount activity by a number of competitors.
He added: "We understand that sales have strongly recovered in the current week."
The sales update caused shares in Next and Marks & Spencer to fall 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. Both companies are due to update on trading next week.
John Lewis managing director Andy Street said results from competitors suggested the company was still outperforming a "very challenging market".
He told staff: "The evidence is that although our customers are being far more judicious in their spending, they are still choosing to spend with us.
"That is credit to the work we have done on assortment, shopkeeping and availability, and serves to remind us that there will still be winners this Christmas. We are on course to be among them."
The Partnership added that supermarket chain Waitrose saw sales rise by 0.6 per cent in the week.