John Lewis counting the £5m cost of snow chaos

Heavy snow cost John Lewis nearly £5 million in lost sales when it disrupted its biggest trading day of the year.

The amount of money the retailer took on Saturday was down by about 10 per cent after Arctic weather conditions closed two of its 32 stores and deterred countless shoppers from trekking to the shops.

Despite the impact on Saturday's trading, the retailer surpassed the 120m mark last week for only the second time, with Edinburgh and Glasgow among four branches reporting record sales.

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Andrew Murphy, retail director said: "We were heading for a record week by a stretch until the weather came in on Friday night."

Overall UK sales of 120.3m in the seven days to 18 December fell just short of the record set the previous week, boosting hopes of a spending surge ahead of the January hike in VAT.

John Lewis noted there was a marked increase in sales of gifts including toys and jewellery while the cold weather sparked unprecedented demand for outerwear including hats, scarves and gloves and earmuffs.

Sales of home furnishings, such as inflatable beds, towels, table linens and glassware, were also up as people prepared to entertain guests over Christmas.

Two branches in the south-east of England were forced to close on Saturday.