John Lewis blames the heatwave as sales melt

John Lewis traditionally does better in poorer weather when consumers are focused on indoor pursuits. Picture: Getty
John Lewis traditionally does better in poorer weather when consumers are focused on indoor pursuits. Picture: Getty
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The impact of the heatwave on high street trading was laid bare as one of the retail sector’s biggest names presented starkly contrasting fortunes for its two operations.

John Lewis Partnership said the protracted hot spell, which has seen the mercury soar above 30C in many parts of the UK, had kept shoppers out of its department stores.

It also blamed Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph and the first Ashes Test in cricket for an 8.7 per cent year-on-year slide in sales in the week to 13 July.

With most of Scotland basking in the sunshine, there were some big falls recorded at the chain’s three Scottish outlets. Glasgow plunged 19 per cent, Aberdeen was down by 14.9 per cent and there was an 11.6 per cent slide in takings in Edinburgh.

Conversely, last week’s very hot weather proved to be good news for the group’s upmarket grocery business, Waitrose. It saw sales soar 14 per cent as sun-seekers stocked up on food, drink and barbecue products for eating outdoors.

Analysts said the differing fortunes highlighted the mixed impact the fine weather was having on the retail industry.

Retail commentator Nick Bubb said: “The heatwave may well be boosting the fortunes of Waitrose and other supermarkets, but it is becoming fairly disastrous for out-of-town centres and retail parks and it is interesting that even online sales at John Lewis were hit last week.”

The figures showed that sales at Johnlewis.com were up by just 3.2 per cent on a year earlier.

In the first 24 weeks of the group’s financial year, the rise at the online operation was a healthier 17.3 per cent, while the gain across the chain was 6.7 per cent.

Bubb said that with the “unhelpfully hot weather persisting”, John Lewis’ sales could take another hit this week.

IHS Global Insight’s chief UK economist, Howard Archer, described the weekly sales fall as “pretty hefty”, saying it was “highly likely” that as people spent more on food and drink, discretionary expenditure took a hit.

He noted: “The John Lewis/Waitrose sales highlight the mixed impact that the fine weather is having on retail sales.

“There are certainly some positives for consumer spending and it is encouraging that consumer confidence was up to a 25-month high in June.

“However, consumers remain under pressure on a number of fronts which could constrain the upside for consumer spending in the near term at least.”

Official data on Thursday signalled a tentative recovery in the retail sector with sales rising for a second month in June.

John Lewis has been outperforming the wider market for some time now but traditionally does better in poorer weather when consumers are focused on indoor pursuits.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The beautiful weather is set to continue, offering our customers many temptations outside. We will therefore need to work hard to tempt customers online or in to store, and once there to wow them with our fabulous products and knowledgeable service.”