The winter weather brings a chill to Lewis sales

Britain's big freeze hit sales at department store chain John Lewis last week as the snow and ice kept shoppers away from the high street, the group said.

John Lewis reported a 1.4 per cent slide in sales, including VAT, in the week to January 9 – a far cry from the 9.9 per cent surge seen in last year's peak clearance week.

This year's adverse weather saw a marked drop in the number of shoppers making it into stores, while trading hours were also impacted as some branches were forced to close early, according to the group.

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Liverpool, Cheadle and High Wycombe were among the worst hit stores, posting sales falls of more than 20 per cent each.

But John Lewis said snowed-in shoppers turned to the internet and phone lines instead to shop, with sales from its website leaping 55.6 per cent ahead in the week and call centres taking as much as 15 per cent of branch trade in some areas.

Another robust performance from supermarket Waitrose also helped the wider John Lewis Partnership maintain sales growth, up 12.1 per cent at 146.4m.

Resurgent Waitrose notched up a 21.8 per cent increase in total sales in the week, with soaring demand for hearty winter food.

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It said New Year diet plans appeared to be put on hold as sales of pies and cupcakes rose 20 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

Consumers also sought to stock up on food staples, frozen and tinned goods in case the weather tightened its grip.

Frozen chips, tinned beans and fish finger sales were all "significantly up", while corned beef sales rocketed 70 per cent.

And shoppers in search of products to help clear iced-up pathways rushed to buy dishwasher salt, which saw a 400 per cent increase in sales.

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At the department stores, winter warmers were likewise in high demand.

Andrew Murphy, director of operational development at John Lewis, said: "In such conditions it was no great surprise to see sales of winter clothing flourishing."