Record start for John Lewis clearance

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The Independent Online

John Lewis is continuing to outshine its rivals on the high street after Christmas, with a record start to its clearance sales.

The department store chain revealed yesterday that on 27 December, the first day of its sales, it took 8.7 per cent more than on its previous biggest day, with 20m ringing through the tills.

One 50in Samsung plasma television priced at 899 was sold every six seconds during the week to 2 January, providing further evidence that the flat-screen television market is still booming. Sales of handbags at the department stores were up 129 per cent in the period, while a set of kitchen scales was sold every four minutes and a pair of clearance ready-made cushions every two minutes.

Reporting its weekly trading figures alongside its clearance figures, John Lewis said total sales across the department stores and the Waitrose supermarket chain rose by 18 per cent to 149m in the week to 29 December. Waitrose performed particularly well with a 28.5 per cent jump in turnover to 79.2m and is thought to be taking market share from the other major supermarkets.

"If anyone doubted that Christmas comes later every year, our last two weeks' trade will certainly make them think again," Patrick Lewis, John Lewis's director of retail operations, said.

The excitement around John Lewis comes as other retailers indicate shoppers are tightening their belts. All eyes will be focused next week on Marks & Spencer, which is due to issue its Christmas trading update on Wednesday. One source said: "All retailers have done badly, it is a case of seeing how badly they have done."

The City is pencilling in flat like-for-like sales growth or a fall of up to 2 per cent at M&S. Analysts at Citigroup said the update "should provide clarity on the scale of the market deterioration, and particularly the impact of numerous other clothing retailers' move to discounting ahead of Christmas".

Despite this, the property consultancy King Sturge is tipping M&S as one of its retail winners this year, with John Lewis, River Island and Tesco. King Sturge is forecasting the influence of the Big Four supermarkets to heighten this year and for Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda to ride out the consumer downturn more effectively than the rest of the sector. Internet retailing is expected to continue its inexorable rise and is estimated to account for 6 per cent of all retail sales by the end of the year.