Apr 27, 2012
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John Lewis sales lifted by rain, digital switchover

Apr 27, 2012

Photo: John Lewis
LONDON - Britain's biggest department store chain John Lewis JLP.UL said sales rose last week, with household goods trade stimulated by poor weather and demand for televisions driven by the digital switchover in London and the south of England.

The employee-owned retailer said on Friday its sales increased 16.5 percent year-on-year to 62 million pounds in the week to April 21.

"Our strong trading performance over Easter continued into week 12," said David Barford, director of selling operations.

"There were solid contributions from both channels with department stores delivering +8 percent and johnlewis.com posting a sizeable +56.5 percent increase," he said.

"Indifferent weather undoubtedly supported footfall and ensured that catering operations performed well."

Sales in the electricals and home technology category rose 49.7 percent, also helped by robust sales of Apple's new iPad, while homewares sales were up 9.1 percent.

However, the cooler weather meant fashion sales growth was limited to 1.1 percent.

John Lewis has been outperforming the wider retail market as its more affluent customers have been less impacted by the economic downturn.

Many UK retailers are still struggling as consumers grapple with inflation, muted wage growth and austerity measures, and worry about job security and a stagnant housing market.

Separately on Friday a survey said worries about prospects for the coming year kept Britons' economic morale in the doldrums in April, reinforcing doubts that consumers will loosen their purse strings and help drag the economy out of recession.

Official data on Wednesday showed Britain's economy had slipped back into recession, while a survey on Thursday said UK retail sales fell slightly more than expected in April, though stores did report the strongest outlook for more than a year.

"John Lewis' recent performance certainly does not equate with an economy in recession," said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

"While John Lewis has often been seen as a bellwether for the state of consumer spending, the fact is that it has been very much an out-performer in recent times."

Archer also points out that John Lewis' numbers are flattered by the fact it has five more shops than a year ago and prices are higher.

John Lewis also owns upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose. Here week to April 21 sales fell 11.3 percent to 107.2 million pounds, reflecting the fact that the comparative week last year was an Easter holiday week.

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