Department store chain John Lewis ended four-weeks of falling sales with a 2.1 per cent jump in revenues for the week to last Saturday compared with a year earlier.
The employee-owned retailer said the week to June 7 sales at its 26 UK department stores increased to £46.1 million, 11 per cent higher than two years ago.
Partnership sales rose 3.9 per cent to £125.7 million and sales through online arm, Johnlewis.com, lifted 28.6 per cent.
In the previous four weeks, department store sales had fallen 4.7 per cent, 2.8 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 4.3 per cent.
Last week John Lewis also reported sales in its Touchwood branch in Solihull were down 9.6 per cent on 2007. The drop was led by falling demand for electricals and homeware.
John Lewis, which has a department store in Nottingham and sponsors Birmingham City Ladies FC, was buoyed by the increase, saying: “An excellent fashion performance with a resurgent EHT (electrical and home technology) led to a move back to positive growth versus last year. The 2.1 per cent increase was particularly pleasing in the current climate.”
Its department stores saw fashion sales increase 8.4 per cent, while electricals and home technology grew 1.3 per cent. However, revenues in home were down 4.7 per cent.
The chain was also helped by the first full week of trading at its relocated store in Liverpool, while three outlets – Edinburgh, Kingston and Oxford Street – improved on a year ago.
The weekly trading figures from John Lewis are viewed as a bellwether of consumer sentiment and have attracted close attention in recent weeks given the insight they offer into UK consumer spending.
UK shoppers have been hit by higher bills and a weakening housing market causing spending to slow sharply in recent months. Sales of so-called “big ticket” items have been particularly badly affected.
However, the department store business has been one of the strongest performers on the high street, helping profits for the John Lewis Partnership to rise £59.7 million to £379.8 million in the year to January.
Seymour Pierce research analyst Freddie George said John Lewis was helped last week by better weather and easier comparatives with a year earlier.
He also noted sales at out-of-town locations remained difficult, with shops at Bluewater and Brent Cross 7.6 per cent lower and Cribbs Causeway, near Bristol off 6.4 per cent.
Friday’s figures also show that sales at its chain of 189 Waitrose supermarkets, which is part of the company partnership, grew five per cent to £79.6 million last week, giving a total weekly increase for the group of 3.9 per cent.
“A good week’s trading, where the weather improved through the week leading to excellent trade on Saturday as customers changed to outdoor eating,” it said of the Waitrose outturn.
The group plans to launch an advertising campaign this month running across outdoor, press and online, focusing on its reputation as a retailer that customers can trust. The second phase of the campaign, due to start in July, will feature staff – the first time John Lewis has used its partners in its advertising.