John Lewis sales hit by wedding and easter

City A.M. Reporter
Easter and a half-day closure for the royal wedding led to a sharp fall in weekly sales at Britain's biggest department store chain John Lewis, it said.

Sales dropped 9.2 per cent year-on-year to £48.7m in the week ended 30 April, and were down 10.7 percent excluding VAT sales tax.

Employee-owned John Lewis, viewed as a barometer of British retail spending, said it saw a pickup in sales of patriotic and royal wedding items.

Tea towels were the fastest-selling item of royal wedding memorabilia, while there was also a surge in sales of fascinators – headpieces with feathers often sported by Prince William's bride, Kate Middleton.

But the demand was not enough to offset the impact of fewer trading hours due to the royal wedding and Easter.

"Despite some decent days of trade midweek, the combined effects of Easter Sunday and the half-day closure last Friday meant that we finished down," John Lewis said.

"This week is free of distractions from a trade perspective. With the weather set to be kind we can look forward to getting back to normal."

Wm Morrison (MRW.L), Britain's fourth-biggest grocer, said on Thursday it saw a net benefit from Easter and the royal wedding as shoppers splashed out on picnic foods, champagne, bunting and flags.

But it added trading was likely to revert to the weaker patterns seen earlier this year as consumers grapple with rising prices and austerity measures.

Analysts had warned that homewares retailers would get less of a benefit from the royal wedding.

John Lewis said weekly homewares sales fell 12.4 per cent, while fashion sales were down 8.8 percent and electricals and technology products down 4.2 per cent.

Weekly sales at the group's upmarket grocery chain Waitrose were up 1.4 per cent.