Department store chain John Lewis has reported a jump in weekly takings to £88 million after colder weather boosted demand for clothing ranges.
The total covering the seven days to Saturday represents a 12% rise on the same week a year earlier and is also 14% higher than the previous week as the group’s 32 stores and home shopping division gear up for Christmas.
As well as fashion and beauty products, other strong sellers included Kindle e-book readers, Apple iPads and SLR digital cameras.
John Lewis, which is seen as a bellwether of Britain’s high street, described trading last week as “excellent”, particularly given strong comparatives with the same week a year earlier. Sales were up 29% on two years ago, it added.
At supermarket chain Waitrose, which is also part of the John Lewis Partnership, sales of £98 million were 8% higher than a year earlier.
The business, which has 239 shops in England, Scotland and Wales, said its sales figures showed that shoppers’ preparations for Christmas were already under way.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said the latest figures were encouraging and suggested that for John Lewis at least sales are gaining decent momentum towards Christmas.
He added: “Retailers will be hoping that consumers decide to splash out and have a good Christmas despite all of the economic worries and concerns.
“It is also likely that retail sales will benefit to a limited extent in the final weeks of this year from consumers looking to make purchases of more expensive items ahead of the January VAT increase from 17.5% to 20%.”
While John Lewis’ department store sales have traditionally been seen as a bellwether for the health of the consumer, Mr Archer said in recent times the retailer has comfortably out-performed the sector as a whole.