John Lewis sales knocked by festive holiday timings

John Lewis has suffered mixed fortunes during the festive period after the timing of bank holidays skewed trading at the department store chain.

John Lewis said takings dropped between Christmas and New Year. Picture: Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

The group, which runs almost 50 sites including a dozen John Lewis at Home branches, said that sales jumped 36 per cent in the week before Christmas, but it then saw a 9.4 per cent slump between Christmas and New Year.

It rang up £175.6 million in sales over the week to 24 December as shoppers rushed to snap up last minute items online for entertaining, and as two extra days of trading this time round boosted trade. The following week was affected by the fall of the Christmas and New Year holidays, it noted.

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The employee-owned group’s Waitrose supermarket business also reported a similar trend, with sales leaping 31.1 per cent in the week to Christmas Eve, but pulling back sharply in the following week to 31 December, down 12.5 per cent.

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The partnership is due to report full figures for the six weeks to New Year’s Eve next Thursday, when many of the major retailers will also reveal how they fared during the crucial festive period. John Lewis said eight of its top ten best-selling items online were household products in the final Christmas trading week, with those hosting parties buying sets of china, white plates and cereal bowls.

Its website saw the busiest hour between 6pm and 7pm on Christmas Eve, following the launch of its clearance sale at 5pm, while shoppers hit the stores on 27 December.

Best-sellers so far in online clearance sales include Mulberry handbags, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Samsung televisions, as well as beauty gift sets.

Rupert Thomas, marketing director, Waitrose, said: “Home items, such as crackers and wrapping paper, performed strongly and Christmas trees were up 20 per cent as customers decorated their houses for family and friends.

“Toasts were raised across the country to bring in the New Year, with English sparkling wine up 65 per cent and Champagne up 13 per cent.”

Meanwhile, discount retailer B&M said a record Christmas helped it notch up a big rise in sales in the third quarter as it flagged a period of “uncertainty” for consumers.

Like-for-like sales grew by 7.2 per cent in the three months to 24 December after the group saw more than 5.5 million shoppers come through its doors in a single week during the period.

Revenue rose by more than 20 per cent to £789.1m and the firm said it was confident it would meet full-year profit expectations.

B&M opened 14 stores in the quarter and trades from 533 in the UK. In Germany, the group’s Jawoll brand operates 73 outlets.