Shaky confidence hits John Lewis sales

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The Independent Online

John Lewis reported another sharp fall in department store sales today after consumer confidence was shaken by the ongoing economic turmoil.

Sales declined by 8.3 per cent to £48.7 million in the week to last Saturday, following on from the 5.6 per cent decline seen in the previous week.

Individual stores posted some big falls, with sales at Southampton and Bristol's Cribbs Causeway down by almost a quarter on a year earlier.

Waitrose - the supermarket arm of the John Lewis Partnership - also struggled as weekly sales dropped 0.7 per cent to £73.6 million.

Dan Knowles, selling operations director for the department store business, said the weather also contributed to the difficult week.

He added: "A combination of unseasonably sunny, warm weather and a huge amount of coverage of the global economic situation added together to give a very tough trading week.

"Sales declined by 8.3 per cent in what we know is a very difficult market - a market in which we continue to grow our share."

John Lewis said fitted kitchens, large electricals and flooring - performed strongly as customers choose to improve their homes instead of moving.

The company, which trades from 27 department stores, said its home division continued to suffer amid the housing market slowdown, with sales diving by 13.3 per cent in the week to September 27.

Fashion sales were down 6 per cent and electricals and home technology fell 7.2 per cent, John Lewis said.

Seymour Pierce retail analyst Freddie George said today's update indicated like-for-like sales - stripping out the impact of new store space - fell by around 11 per cent or 12 per cent at the department store business.

He added: "It was also a very poor week for Waitrose with sales reported to be down by 0.7 per cent despite, conversely, easier weather comparatives indicating that consumers are continuing to trade down from the "high end" food retailers.

Half-year results from John Lewis earlier this month showed that Waitrose was coming under pressure as hard-pressed consumers switched to cheaper alternatives.