John Lewis sales lifted by back to school gear

John Lewis posted a rise in weekly sales, boosted by parents splashing out on items ahead of the imminent start of the new school year.

The employee-owned business said sales at its department stores increased 1.4 per cent to £58.6m in the week to August 27.

Sales excluding VAT sales tax fell 0.4 per cent.

"A last dash for the outdoors over the bank holiday weekend, and a renewed sense of urgency around Back to School, could be felt throughout our business as we traded into the weekend," the firm said.

Online sales were the standout performance, up 34 per cent on last year.

"We believe that John Lewis continues to outperform the competition, so this would imply a worse performance elsewhere," said analysts at Singer Capital Markets.

British consumers are grappling with rising prices, subdued wage growth, a lack of credit, job insecurity, a stagnant housing market and government austerity measures.

Analysts fear riots in several UK cities last month and a sharp decline in the stock market will have a further negative impact on sentiment.

Confidence among consumers fell to its lowest level in four months in August, a survey showed on Wednesday.

John Lewis's retail director Andrew Murphy told Reuters last month the firm would outperform a falling retail market this Christmas, benefiting from the strength of its presence in London and investment, particularly in Internet shopping.

John Lewis also owns the Waitrose supermarket chain. Here week to 27 August sales rose 9.9 per cent to £99.3m.

It noted the mixed bank holiday weather failed to put off keen barbecuers, with the chain posting its biggest ever week for sales of sausages.