Last week’s fuel tanker drivers’ strike contributed to a fall in sales at John Lewis as shoppers stayed at home amid fears of petrol shortages.
The department store chain said sales fell by 4.4 per cent on a year earlier, with the group’s branch at Touchwood in Solihull registering a drop of 13.5 per cent.
The overall drop in sales to £45.7 million reversed last week’s 2.1 per cent increase and puts the employee-owned retailer back on the downward path seen over the previous month.
John Lewis head of selling development Barry Matheson said: “Last week was always going to be a stiff target with one of our best weeks from last year against us, so it was no surprise to be four per cent down.
“Saturday in particular was a challenge with a combination of fine weather and concern about the fuel drivers’ strike combining to drive down footfall in the regional shopping centre branches. Given the almost daily reports of doom and gloom in the economy and housing market, it is perhaps no surprise our customers appear to be taking a more cautious approach, particularly to major purchases.”
John Lewis fashion sales showed a three per cent rise in sales, contrasting with falls of 9.7 per cent in electricals and home technology and 8.9 per cent in homeware sales. Only three of the group’s 26 stores – London’s Oxford Street, Aberdeen and Edinburgh – showed better sales figures than last year, while the relocated Liverpool branch reported “impressive” sales figures.
The company’s online operation Johnlewis.com was up, posting sales growth of 23.7 per cent.
John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose chain, which has several branches in the West Midlands, reported sales growth of 7.3 per cent to £81 million last week helped by the warm and sunny start to the week.
Total Partnership sales rose 2.8 per cent to £126.64 million.
The downward turn in John Lewis’s department store sales reflects the general consensus among retailers that shoppers are cutting back on spending amid rising food, fuel and mortgage costs.
But economists were stunned on Thursday at official statistics showing a surge in consumer spending in May.
Retail sales volumes increased 3.5 per cent from April, the biggest monthly rise in over 20 years in a jump put down to May’s sunny weather.