John Lewis and Waitrose enjoyed contrasting fortunes last week as soaring temperatures played havoc with autumn sales trends.
In the week Waitrose began stocking Halloween and Christmas products, the supermarket chain saw sales of sun cream triple on a year ago while sales of ice cream were up by 6 per cent.
Overall, Waitrose revenues were up by 9.7 per cent to £101.9m in the week to last Saturday, while the department store side of the John Lewis Partnership reported a 7.9 per cent drop in sales.
The stores business admitted it had been a tough week, with fashion sales down by 13 per cent as the weather hit demand for autumnal ranges.
A number of shops suffered sales falls of more than 20 per cent in the week, including at Milton Keynes and Southampton.
Even allowing for footfall being hit by the good weather, Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said the figures fuelled concern that consumers are reining in their spending – particularly on discretionary products.
He added: “There has been a clear softening trend in John Lewis sales over the past few weeks. Furthermore, the John Lewis data follow on from a number of retailers recently reporting weak underlying sales.”
Online sales for John Lewis were 14 per cent ahead of last year during the week but this was below the growth rate of 28 per cent seen over the previous two months as potential customers focused on enjoying the weather.
Other best-sellers at Waitrose included barbecue ingredients after it sold 50 per cent more chicken drumsticks and 40 per cent more bread rolls.
Soft fruit sales increased by 70 per cent and sales of fizzy drinks lifted 41 per cent.