John Lewis sees £88m in week’s sales

Julian Harris
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SHOPPERS have been flocking to buy goods in the run up to Christmas, according to John Lewis’ latest sales figures, released today.

Last week £88m was spent in the department store, a 12 per cent jump from the same time last year.

New gadgets are selling well, such as Kindle Readers, iPads, iPods and SLR digital cameras. Consumers may be stocking up before VAT is pushed up to 20 per cent in the new year.

UK retail sales have recently picked up, increasing by half a per cent between September and October. Last month’s figures were slightly lower than at the same point last year, but John Lewis’ announcement offers hope for a greater jump in high street sales this month.

Sales through the John Lewis website are up 42 per cent from last year, reflecting huge increases in internet purchases across the sector.

However, Director of Operational Development Lesley Ballantyne, insists that the group’s “bricks and clicks” policy is seeing improved sales in-store, as well as online.

Warm clothing and household items are also flying off the shelves, said Ballatyne, as shoppers battle the cold weather and prepare their homes for the holiday period.

The figures were described as “largely encouraging” by Howard Archer of IHS?Global Insight. However, he warned that while John Lewis has traditionally been seen as a bellwether for the industry, “it has recently been outperforming the retail sector as a whole.”

The news came as a household finance survey revealed that people are getting in more debt to pay for their spending.

The Markit Household Finance Index, based on data from Ipsos MORI, said that a rise in household spending “came at the expense of a survey record rise in debt and a steep fall in savings.”

As incomes fall, 29 per cent of respondents indicated a worsening of their finances (compared to seven per cent saying theirs had improved). Recognising the pinch on consumers, Tim Moore, an economist at Markit, said that “…falling incomes mean that higher spending is resulting in more debt and lower savings.”