Department store chain John Lewis reported a rise in takings during Christmas week when sales attracted a late surge in bargain hunters, but the firm’s Solihull branch failed to join in the festive cheer.
Sales at the John Lewis store in Solihull’s Touchwood shopping centre were down 9.4 per cent on the same week last year.
Nationally the group said sales in stores and online for the week ending December 27th were 1.2 per cent higher than a year earlier at £71 million.
The performance was helped by a record first day of its sale, when takings hit £21.4 million, up seven per cent on the same day last year.
Upmarket supermarket Waitrose, which is also part of the John Lewis Partnership, saw sales soar 40.6 per cent to £111.3 million in Christmas week after the grocery chain enjoyed its best-ever trading day on December 23.
But the high street was not taking too much heart from the numbers issued by John Lewis, seen as a bellwether for trends in the retail sector, as new data on shopper numbers from market research firm Experian suggested the run of holiday bargain-hunting may already be coming to an end.
Experian said shopper numbers on January 1 were down 9.7 per cent on the same day last year.
John Lewis’s late pre-Christmas boost business came after the group suffered double-digit percentage falls in sales during November.
In the last full week of trading before Christmas John Lewis said sales of consumer electronics rose 25 per cent while it sold twice as many large televisions than last year.
“The pundits who predicted it would come fast and furious in the final week were on the money,’’ said John Lewis department stores retail director Patrick Lewis on the jump in pre-Christmas spending.
He added: “After a difficult November, trade built steadily over the last month, finishing with a surge on the Sunday to Wednesday before Christmas. We then topped it all with a record first day of clearance.”
Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight added: “It is evident that many consumers left buying their Christmas presents until the very last moment in the hope of getting the very best bargain possible.”
But analysts fear the spending spree will be short-lived and will not provide much respite to retailers because they have had to slash prices to attract custom.
“We strongly suspect that the sales effect will be temporary and that retailers will face a desperately difficult 2009,’’ said Mr Archer.
“This will keep pressure on them to price competitively...which will obviously impact on margins. As a result, many more retailers seem likely to go under in 2009.’’
Last week Experian predicted more than 1,600 British retailers will be forced out of business in 2009.