John Lewis Christmas sales offer UK high street hope

Strong performance boosted by double-digit increases in fashion and beauty sales

John Lewis’s flagship store in Oxford Street, London. Photograph: iStock

John Lewis’s flagship store in Oxford Street, London. Photograph: iStock

 

John Lewis has offered a glimmer of hope to the gloom pervading the UK high street after reporting strong sales figures for the Christmas trading period.

The department store chain, which is owned by its employees, said total sales for the weeks to December 22nd and 29th were up 4.2 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively compared with the previous year. Its strong performance was boosted by double-digit increases in sales of fashion, beauty and wellbeing products.

John Lewis said Christmas Eve sales had been “very strong” while it had made a “confident” start to its clearance events, which started online on Christmas Eve and in stores on St Stephen’s Day.

However, analysts warned against reading too much into the sales figures. “You have to wonder what markdowns they had to offer to achieve that level of sales growth,” said Patrick O’Brien at GlobalData.

The retailer generally refrains from heavy discounting, but its “never knowingly undersold” price-matching policy obliges it to match discounts on branded goods being offered by rivals. Mr O’Brien said House of Fraser and Debenhams were discounting “ferociously” in the run-up to Christmas.

Rivals also make a lower percentage of their sales online, meaning they are proportionately more exposed to lower shopper numbers on the UK’s high streets. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019