Christmas shoppers help lift John Lewis sales 13%
John Lewis lifted hopes of a buoyant festive period for beleaguered retailers after it reported a 13% increase in like-for-like sales.
In the first Christmas trading update from the sector, the department store chain reported sales of £684.8m in the five weeks to December 29 thanks to a last-minute rush before the holidays and a milestone online performance.
Total sales rose 14.8% in the period, with extra trade coming from four new stores opened during 2012.
John Lewis notched up record sales of £158m in the week leading up to Christmas, up 26.5% on a year earlier.
The group also suggested the clearance season got off to an encouraging start after total sales lifted 11.5% in the first five trading days after Christmas thanks to a record £31.7m sales reported on December 27.
John Lewis said online sales in particular helped boost figures, with johnlewis.com breaking through the £800m barrier during December after a 44% rise in sales year on year.
Internet sales now account for a quarter of all revenues, according to the group.
The figures mark the start of a busy reporting period for retailers, with fashion chain Next due to publish its festive trading update.
High street bellwether Marks -amp; Spencer reports its figures next week, with supermarkets Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco also revealing how well they have fared.
The latest figures from John Lewis reinforce expectations that the sector enjoyed a late pick-up in sales, but experts are predicting a mixed performance.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said it was also likely that consumer spending has waned after a strong start to the clearance sales.
He said: "We suspect that people are being careful in buying items that they don't really want or need in the sales.
"If this is the case, interest in the sales could fall away pretty quickly once the best of the bargains have gone.
"This would put pressure on retailers to cut prices even more, thereby further hurting their margins," said Mr Archer.