John Lewis reveals tough week

Graeme Evans,Pa
Friday 14 March 2008 10:04

The department store chain John Lewis today said a busy schedule of televised sporting events contributed to a 1.4 per cent decline in sales last week.

As well as the distraction of FA Cup football and Six Nations rugby, John Lewis said the fall of Mother's Day on the previous Sunday kept shoppers from its stores and depressed figures for the trading week to last Saturday.

It is the second time in the last month that John Lewis has posted negative weekly sales, following a drop of 3.4 per cent in the week to February 16.

Personnel director Eric Gregory said the shortfall seen on the Sunday outstripped the remaining six days of trading, when sales were higher.

He added: "This was a difficult week for comparisons, what with the fall of Mother's Day on Sunday, the unseasonable weather and Saturday's sporting events."

Branches at Oxford Street and Aberdeen exceeded last year's figures, as well as the chain's internet operation John Lewis Direct. In Oxford Street, fashion sales were the highest while Aberdeen saw strong trading in floor coverings, china and womenswear.

John Lewis staff recently celebrated the award of one-fifth of their salary as an annual bonus. Colleagues at supermarket chain Waitrose also benefited.

The pay-out followed a strong year for the JL Partnership, with profits for the year ended January 26 up £59.7 million to £379.8 million and overall group sales from continuing operations up 6.3 per cent to £6.8 billion.

However, the group warned that its 26 John Lewis stores and 187 Waitrose food shops faced "very challenging" trading for the rest of this year and possibly into next year as the economic downturn took its toll.

Today's figures underline the strength of the company's online operation, with sales at John Lewis Direct ahead 27 per cent on a year earlier. Mr Gregory added: "The conversion rate of our customers' online presence continues to be strong."

At Waitrose, sales were 6 per cent higher at £77.3 million last week.

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