Department store chain John Lewis has fuelled fears over consumer spending after revealing a further week of sales pressure.
The group said sales excluding VAT dropped 0.5% in the week to February 12, following a flat performance the previous week and a fortnight of declines at the end of January. Sales including VAT rose 1.4% to £49.8 million in the week.
John Lewis blamed a difficult trading day on Saturday as sporting events such as the Six Nations Rugby and Manchester football derby left shopper numbers lower, while it also came up against tougher comparatives due to the timing of Valentine’s Day trading a year earlier.
Experts said the results are a worrying sign for consumer spending.
While official figures reveal a bounce-back in retail sales last month, up 1.9% in January, the John Lewis data has reinforced fears this was a one-off rebound after the snow-hit December.
Retail analyst Nick Bubb at Arden Partners said: “With even mighty John Lewis under pressure and the shadow of higher interest rates, the weak vibes about high street trading continue to make us cautious.”
He added: “The department store chain has struggled in the last few weeks against tough comparatives, but we are sure that life will be much tougher elsewhere on the high street as John Lewis is likely to be still outperforming the general non-food market.”
John Lewis is hoping its following week figures will have received a boost from Valentine’s Day trading on the Sunday.
It saw a 10.5% leap in beauty sales in the week to February 12 as shoppers snapped up romantic gifts, while men’s formal wear soared 27%.
The Partnership’s Waitrose supermarket arm likewise received a fillip from Valentine’s Day sales, with sales excluding petrol up 5.3% – although this is down sharply on the 9.7% rise the previous week.