GROWTH in consumer demand for big ticket items fuelled by a strong housing market helped both John Lewis and Aga report buoyant trading yesterday.
John Lewis’s home department saw sales leap almost 19 per cent in its latest weekly figures with furniture in particular a strong performer.
The retailer said its customers “seem to be feeling increasingly confident in the housing market”.
It said forward orders for the department were also up 20 per cent, suggesting that the positive trend will continue. Overall John Lewis said the second half of the year was “really starting to gain momentum”, with a 13 per cent rise against last year.
“With the bank holiday approaching and the ‘good retailing weather’ set to continue, there is every reason to be optimistic that we can achieve another strong week,” said David Barford, director of selling.
Meanwhile cast-iron cooker maker Aga Rangemaster also said the appetite of British householders for buying kitchen appliances was growing.
The Leamington Spa-based group said first-half sales rose 3.3 per cent to £123.5 million, while pre-tax losses narrowed to £300,000 from £2.4m in the same period last year. In the UK, which accounts for two-thirds of revenues, sales lifted 9.7 per cent.
It hopes to build on the performance in the second half with a range of new products but said that, on current trading and outlook, sales markets “remain consistent and variable”.
“Uncertainties around mortgage availability and interest rates are a contributing factor. Even so, the willingness of consumers choosing to spend money on kitchen appliances has increased in the UK and North America,” the group said.
It comes as UK borrowers face tighter mortgage affordability checks under new rules introduced earlier this year, and speculation about a forthcoming hike in interest rates.
Aga said its Fired Earth tiles brand had a “strong profitable first half” with a recovery in the market driving a double digit sales increase.
New stores for the brand opened over the last three years in the south-east were “performing well in the strengthened housing market”.
The firm also said it hoped to boost sales of its products among those who may “not consider them as relevant to their home and lifestyles”.
It said its new Aga City 60 model, which sells for £4,995, was aimed at widening its customer base and attracting “urban, younger audiences”.
This model has roughly the same dimensions as standard kitchen cabinets and is equipped with wheels to help when moving house.
The group said new designs launched since 2011 had accounted for 60 per cent of Aga orders during the first half.
Aga said after a reorganisation last year its Irish and US businesses were yet to recover profitability and sales fell. It also struggled in France.