Hope on the high street as John Lewis sale beats records

John Lewis has reported a double-digit surge in sales during the first three days of its post-Christmas clearance sale, boosting hopes of a pre-VAT-rise rush on the high street.

The department store group said both Monday and Tuesday beat its previous record for a single day's sales, with revenues on 27 December reaching 27.8 million.

Across the three days to Wednesday, sales were up 26.2 per cent compared to the equivalent period last year.

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The employee-owned business, which runs 28 department stores, including outlets in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, is often seen as a barometer of British retailing.

Store operators are hoping for a boost in sales ahead of a rise in VAT sales tax on 4 January and to make up for the loss of business due to the extreme winter weather earlier in December.

Initial reports of post-festive trading have been encouraging, with strong footfall numbers in major shopping centres across the country.

However, many retailers remain wary about the prospects for 2011 and whether they will be able to pass on rising input costs to shoppers hit by higher taxes and public sector spending cuts.

The British Retail Consortium said in a survey on Monday that two-thirds of those polled expected next year to be tougher than 2010.

Yesterday's update from John Lewis revealed that Monday's bumper haul was almost a third higher than the group's previous biggest ever day, on 27 December 2008.

Nat Wakely, director of selling operations for John Lewis, said: "There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to our clearance offer with customers queuing outside our shops on the first day."

Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The likelihood is that consumer spending will be limited in 2011."