Bad weather sees shoppers flock to John Lewis stores

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THE UK’s biggest department store chain John Lewis reported impressive sales growth last week, boosted by the torrential rain and low temperatures.

The chain’s marketing director Rupert Thomas said: “Sales of tights were up by 80 per cent, hot drinks by 62 per cent and umbrellas by a massive 5,000 per cent compared to last year, demonstrating the stark contrast with the weather at this time last year.”

Weekly sales rose by 32.4 per cent, continuing an impressive first quarter which shows growth of 12.2 per cent at John Lewis so far this year.

Sales at the group’s Sheffield store rose 10.6 per cent.

John Lewis said the results were helped by low figures in the same week last year due to the fall of Easter Sunday and the effect of the Royal Wedding.

Homeware sales rose 25 per cent, benefiting from a strong performance from big-ticket items. Beds and bedroom furniture, floor coverings and upholstery all produced significant double-digit growth.

The inclement weather compared with a warm end of April last year helped lighting rise by 51 per cent, but the weather had a correspondingly negative impact on outdoor furniture.

Fashion was also affected by the weather, with men’s outerwear significantly up, but sandals and sunglasses both down 60 per cent.

Fashion sales rose by 18.6 per cent and John Lewis said it looks well set for a positive season.

Electricals and home technology sales continued their strong run with growth of 62.6 per cent, the best number of the year so far.

Highlights included IT which showed treble-digit growth while TV sales continued to benefit from the digital switchover and the London Olympics.

Sales of large electrical goods had its best ever week outside the January clearance.

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

“Even allowing for a number of factors boosting the year-on-year growth rate, this is another very impressive sales performance from John Lewis that defies the UK apparently being back in recession,” said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

“The caveat is that 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.”

Many UK retailers are struggling as shoppers grapple with higher prices, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and worry about job security, shaky housing markets and fallout from the eurozone debt crisis.

Data last week showed Britain is back in recession, prompting fears of a fresh fall in consumer confidence.