John Lewis sees the Jubilee theme kick in

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Department store John Lewis highlighted the pressure on fashion retailers yesterday despite reporting another double-digit rise in sales.

Overall revenues were 11.6 per cent higher at £59.7m in the week to last Saturday but the recent damp weather meant sales in fashion were 2 per cent higher.

Electricals and home technology led the way with a 37 per cent jump in sales as the department continued to benefit from the digital television switchover.

There was also a Jubilee theme to the week’s trading as bunting, bowler hats and tea towels helped lift home sales by nearly 5 per cent.

Retail operations director Simon Russell said it had been another solid week for the chain, which has posted double-digit sales growth every week since the end of March.

He added: “Comparisons are as tricky as ever with the weather and the tail end of the digital switchover on our side while at the same time we were up against some strong trade thanks to some active price matching of a competitor’s [Debenhams] sale last year.

“The first signs of spring appearing, combined with the run-up to half-term and the extended bank holiday weekend, should give us a much needed spike in demand for summer fashion and outdoor assortments.”

The firm has been outperforming the wider market as its generally more affluent customers have been less impacted by Britain’s double dip recession, while improvements to product and service have chimed with consumers.

Many UK retailers are, however, under pressure as consumers are squeezed by higher prices, muted wage growth and government austerity measures.

Last week John Lewis’ retail director Andrew Murphy raised the firm’s sales guidance for the year.

Online sales rose by 37.5 per cent in the week and shops at Cheadle, Reading and Norwich performed ahead of the rest of the group.

At supermarket chain Waitrose, which is also part of the John Lewis Partnership, weekly sales were up by 6.6 per cent on last year.

Retail director Rob Collins said the extension of the chain’s price match scheme, which offers branded grocery products at the same price as Tesco, was a factor in the improved performance.