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John Lewis has emerged as the star of turn-of-the-year trading, recording sales almost 40 per cent higher in the first week of January, compared with the same week last year, and a 7.6 rise in sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Its performance, and that of its food arm, Waitrose, make the complaints of Tesco and others about the dissuasive effects of the December snow sound like so much special pleading. Clearly, John Lewis was doing something right that gave it the crucial edge.

That something might well reflect its reputation for dependability and service. This is often put down to its status as a co-operative and the motivational effects of profit-sharing. But service, while often the first thing to go when economies have to be made, should be the aim of every business. How deficient service has become is the national concern of the moment, with two TV series devoted to the theme. And John Lewis will have to look to its laurels. Reputations have a habit of lagging behind reality; to maintain this success, it will have to burnish that reputation throughout the year.

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