John Lewis in holiday mood as the good start goes on

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BRITAIN’S biggest department store group, John Lewis, yesterday revealed that its good start to the year has continued with sales increasing by 17.2 per cent last week.

Its performance was boosted by the later half-term school holidays in England this year.

The employee-owned group, which has been outperforming the broader retail sector for over a year, said its department store sales were £63.3m in the week to February 23.

“Half-term certainly helped although for many parts of the country it was a week later than 2012 which may flatter the result slightly,” said retail operations director Simon Russell yesterday.

“Nevertheless, the first four weeks of the new financial year, which gives a fair comparison, show that sales have grown an impressive 16.8 per cent with good growth from both shops and online.”

John Lewis said electricals and home technology sales were up 33.3 per cent year-on-year, driven by demand for tablet compu- ters.

Sales in both the fashion and home categories were up 10.1 per cent.

Online sales increased 20.1 per cent.

“We are well set to continue our good start to 2013,” said Mr Russell.

With Britain teetering on the brink of a third recession in four years, many retailers have been finding the going tough, as consumers worry about job security, a squeeze on incomes and Government cuts.

John Lewis has consistently bucked the gloom as its generally more affluent customers have been less affected by the downturn, while improvements to products, service and promotions, along with new modern stores, have proved popular with consumers.

“John Lewis’ robust performance gives a lift to hopes that there will be a general pick-up in retail sales in February after a very poor performance in January which was partly due to the snow,” said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

A lacklustre distributive trades survey for February from the CBI on Tuesday had hit hopes that retail sales were markedly better this month.

The group also owns upmarket grocer Waitrose, which is also outperforming its rivals.

Its sales rose 7.1 per cent in the week to February 23.

John Lewis is due to publish its 2012-13 results on March 7.