Record weekly sales for John Lewis

Department store chain John Lewis yesterday reported record weekly sales, raising hopes that retailers will be able to make up for trade lost during the snow.

The group, which is seen as a bellwether of Britain's high street, said it rang up 121 million of sales in the week to Saturday, marking the most money taken in a single week by the employee-owned company.

The figure was up 16.7 per cent on the previous week when Arctic conditions put off many shoppers.

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Supermarket chain Waitrose, which is also owned by the John Lewis Partnership, likewise reported robust sales as the cold weather eased in many parts of the UK.

The food chain saw total sales rise 9 per cent to 113m year-on-year.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said the John Lewis figures may help ease fears over Christmas trading. He said: "Retailers may still have a decent Christmas after all, despite the hit to activity from the bad weather.

"One proviso is that in recent times John Lewis has been comfortably outperforming the retail sector as a whole. Another major concern for retailers is that more cold weather is forecast this coming week. With Christmas falling on a Saturday, next weekend's trading is going to be of major importance to retailers."

The British Retail Consortium's Christmas trading snapshot survey, published today, found 35 per cent of retailers expect this year's yuletide sales to be better than last year, while a further 29 per cent expect to match 2009's takings.

More than 70 per cent think customers are shopping early to beat January's VAT rise.