John Lewis shrugs off double-dip fears

City A.M. Reporter
Customers of John Lewis are showing few signs of reining in spending in the face of prospective tax rises and employment uncertainty with the firm posting another week of double digit sales growth.

The employee-owned company, traditionally seen as a bellwether of the retail sector but which has outperformed competitors for over a year, said sales at its 28 department stores and two "at home" stores increased 12.2 per cent to £57.8m in the week to August 28.

The outcome was driven by a 17 per cent rise in fashion sales and a 16.4 per cent increase in the home category but was flattered by the opening of the retailer's second "at home" store in Croydon, south London.

As with previous weeks the data showed southern based stores outperforming outlets in the north, with, for example, Oxford Street, London up 14.3 per cent but Newcastle down 9 per cent

John Lewis also said it had made "a flying start" to the week beginning August 29.

A survey on Tuesday said British consumer confidence unexpectedly improved in August for the first time since February and on Thursday John Browett, chief executive of DSG International, Europe's No. 2 electricals retailer, said he did not expect a double-dip recession.

However, many experts think UK retailers face a particularly tough winter as the government takes steps to reduce a record public deficit.

"The general retail sector has recovered over the last fortnight but has still underperformed the market over the last quarter by almost 10 percent," said Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George.

"We think the short-term outperformance will continue before the reality of the public spending cuts start to sink in – the Spending Review is due October 20."

John Lewis also owns the 231-store Waitrose supermarket chain, where week to 28 August sales rose 6.8 per cent to £90.2M, boosted by strong sales of the newly launched Duchy Originals from Waitrose organic range