Festive trading joy for John Lewis

LATE BOOST: Trading came late for Waitrose this Christmas its owner the John Lewis Partnership said.
LATE BOOST: Trading came late for Waitrose this Christmas its owner the John Lewis Partnership said.
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Department store chain John Lewis posted a leap in festive trading figures as surging sales online offset falls across its stores.

The retailer saw like-for-like sales lift 5.1 per cent in the six weeks to January 2, but it relied on a 21.4 per cent jump in online trade as comparable store sales dropped 1.2 per cent.

This has been a strong Christmas trading period for the partnership...

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership

The Partnership also revealed “challenging” trading at its Waitrose supermarket arm, which suffered a 1.4% fall in like-for-like sales excluding fuel over the six weeks.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “This has been a strong Christmas trading period for the partnership despite the non-food market seeing significant shifts in trade patterns and the grocery market continuing to be challenging.”

The employee-owned firm, which runs 46 John Lewis stores, shrugged off the unusually mild December weather as it hailed “impressive” trading across fashion, home and technology.

This comes despite fears sparked for clothing retailers after Next posted a shock fall in its store sales and a sharp slowdown in its Directory catalogue and online arm, blaming the mild conditions in November and December.

John Lewis said the number of shoppers on the high street was lower this year as consumers continued to shift online, with trading through its website making up 40 per cent of all sales in the six-week festive season.

But it saw so-called shopper footfall pick up as the clearance sales kicked off after Christmas, helping department store sales rise 23 per cent in the week to January 2.

The Partnership has outperformed rivals for the last six years, helped by a strong online offering, modern stores and a bias to the more prosperous south east of England.

Results for the Waitrose business confirmed the tough conditions in the supermarket sector as grocers battle amid a ferocious price war and the increasing might of discounters Aldi and Lidl.

The group said trading came late for the Waitrose chain, peaking with record trade on December 23 and 24, while online sales rose 7.9 per cent over the six-week period.

Waitrose’s gross sales, excluding fuel, were £859.8m, up 1.2 per cent compared with last year and down 1.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

John Lewis said its overall festive performance has kept it on track with full-year profit expectations for between £270m and £320m, which comes against £342.7m the previous year.

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