John Lewis reported a second consecutive fall in weekly sales at its department stores and warned of tougher trading ahead as shoppers face higher prices, taxes and public spending cuts.
However, the employee-owned group, which has long outperformed the broader retail sector, said on Friday it was still budgeting for growth for the year to January 2012.
Department store sales fell 0.9 per cent year-on-year to £49.5m in the week to 29 January, following a 2.2 per cent decline the week before.
The data add to signs of a slowdown in consumer spending after Christmas and a hike in VAT sales tax.
John Lewis, which also runs upmarket grocery chain Waitrose, said electricals and home technology sales fell 5.1 per cent, while sales of home-related products were up 0.3 per cent and fashion sales up 1.4 per cent.
Weekly sales at Waitrose rose 6.4 per cent to £95.6m.