John Lewis sales stall on shopper worries

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RETAILER John Lewis posted a fourth consecutive week of lacklustre sales, adding to evidence consumers are cutting back on spending in the face of macro economic headwinds.

The employee-owned group, which has been outperforming the broader retail sector for over a year, said on Friday sales at its department stores increased 1.4 per cent to £49.8m in the week to February 12.

That follows a rise of 1.2 per cent in the previous week and declines in the last two weeks of January.

“The John Lewis figures suggest that consumers are becoming increasingly less prepared - or less able - to spend as higher inflation (fuelled by January’s VAT hike from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent) and muted earnings growth squeezes their purchasing power,” said IHS Global Insight chief economist Howard Archer.

British consumer confidence fell sharply in January to near its weakest level since early 2009, a survey by building society Nationwide showed on Wednesday.

John Lewis also runs upmarket grocery chain Waitrose. Sales here rose 5.4 per cent to £96.6m, with purchases for Valentine’s Day providing a boost.