Festive cheer at John Lewis as sales jump

Kasmira Jefford
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HIGH street bellwether retailer John Lewis has hailed “outstanding” sales in the run-up to Christmas but warned of a challenging year ahead as economic conditions remain volatile.

Total sales in the five weeks to 31 December surged to almost £596m, up 9.3 per cent compared with last year, while like-for-like sales were up 6.2 per cent.

“Sales during the four weeks to Christmas Eve were outstanding,” said John Lewis managing director Andy Street (pictured), when the chain broke a new record of £133.1m for the week to 17 December.

He conceded that trading in the first week of clearance was more subdued, down 4.8 per cent year-on-year, but said this compared with a strong performance in the last days of 2010 when shoppers flocked in ahead of the looming VAT increase.

“It was always going to be a challenge to match sales, particularly with ‘big ticket’ items,” Street said.

Online sales for the five weeks jumped by 27.9 per cent and have exceeded £600m in the year to date.

The company, which has 35 department stores across the UK, said it had gained market share in all categories.

Homeware increased by 13.6 per cent while fashion and beauty rose by 10.3 per cent.