John Lewis has reported its third consecutive fall in weekly sales - confirming the store is feeling the strain from worsening economic conditions.
Sales at the flagship John Lewis department store at Touchwood in Solihull were down 9.7 per cent.
The employee-owned retailer, seen as a barometer for the more affluent end of the high street, said sales fell by 2.8 per cent across its 26 UK department stores in the week to May 24.
The drop represents the third weekly fall in sales in a row, down 1.8 per cent and 4.3 per cent in the two previous weeks.
“Not unexpectedly, considering the current economic climate, trade this week did not exceed last year’s figures,” the retailer said.
But revenues for the first 17 weeks of the group’s financial year are still up two per cent on last year’s figures.
Selling operations director Dan Knowles said: “There’s no doubt that trade remains tough, but all indications are that John Lewis is well placed and we continue to take share from the competition.”
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.
Last week just two of the retailer’s stores reported year-on-year increases - Oxford Street and Aberdeen - whereas 13 stores witnessed a double-digit drop in sales.
Internet sales remained resilient - John Lewis Direct, the company’s online arm, saw sales growth of 32 per cent. And the retailer said its Father’s Day promotion has so far been successful, up 60 per cent on last year.
Like other high street retailers, John Lewis reported slowing trade in homeware, but said fashion sales were up 4.8 per cent on last year.
The retailer said its girlswear and own-brand boyswear range were both up more than 20 per cent up thanks to new products and in-store merchandising.
The further drop in weekly sales came in the same week John Lewis launched a new department store in Liverpool.
The group said it was confident its investment would bring a welcome boost to its sales line and customer offer in what it described as a “key and increasingly vibrant city.”
Despite the weaker performance at its department stores, sales across the whole John Lewis Partnership, which includes upmarket supermarket Waitrose, increased by 1.8 per cent last week to £123.8 million.
The 188-store Waitrose chain, which has a number of branches across the West Midlands, showed a sales increase of 4.6 per cent to £79.5 million. But the supermarket said changeable weather across much of the country over the bank holiday weekend made trading “challenging.”
John Lewis’s drop in sales came in a week where several new surveys piled on ever more gloom among high street retailers.
Friday's GfK NOP barometer of UK consumer confidence hit its lowest level in 18 years, plunging to depths not seen since before the start of the UK’s last recession in 1990.
And on Thursday, a CBI survey found high street activity dropped for a second month in May while retailers were increasing prices by the fastest rate since 1992.
Bleak housing market data only served to back up retailers’ gloom on Thursday with news from Nationwide that house prices fell by 2.5 per cent in May.
John Lewis Partnership is owned by its 69,000 employees across the group’s Waitrose, John Lewis and Greenbee brands. The company recently rewarded staff members, known as “partners,” with bonuses of up to a fifth of their salary as a thank you for their part in notching up record profits last year.