Department store John Lewis has offered some hope to the high street after revealing a surge in weekly sales as the Christmas shopping season stepped up a gear.
John Lewis, which has 29 department stores - including a flagship store in Solihull and plans for one of its largest above the redeveloped New Street station in Birmingham - recorded sales of £113.6 million in the week to December 3, a 9.6 per cent increase on the same week last year and a 15.1 perr cent rise on the previous week.
Fashion trade was particularly brisk, John Lewis said, as the colder weather drove sales of coats, gloves and scarves as well as men’s and women’s cashmere, slippers and dressing gowns.
The figures come as a number of retailers report a slowdown in sales and have raised fears over a dismal festive season, as the consumer spending squeeze continues to take hold.
While the figures were flattered by the snow which caused disruption to trade this time last year, sales were up 10.9 per cent on the same week two years ago, indicating a robust underlying trading performance.
Nat Wakely, director of selling operations, said: “It is not surprising that fashion has begun to take off as the weather becomes more truly seasonal, and there is clear evidence that “home really is where the heart is” as John Lewis customers are continuing to invest in making improvements to their houses in preparation for visits from friends and family.”
He added: “We expect to see continued strong sales growth as there is no escaping that Christmas is around the corner now that we are firmly in the month of December.”
Sales of furnishings, chairs and tableware continued their strong performance as customers kitted out their homes for forthcoming celebrations, John Lewis said. Kitchen gadgets - such as Nespresso coffee machines - and sales in china and glass saw significant uplifts.
Elsewhere, trade at johnlewis.com saw a 13.9 per cent increase on last year when sales were boosted by customers buying online because of the snow.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “Looking through the distortions caused by last year’s snow, there can be little doubt that retailers are facing an extremely challenging Christmas sales period, and are having their work cut out to get pressurised and worried consumers to part with their cash.
“Consumer confidence remained mired in near record low levels in November, with purchasing power under severe pressure from high inflation, muted wage growth and tight fiscal policy.”