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By
Reuters
Published
Feb 5, 2010
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John Lewis sales up sharply

By
Reuters
Published
Feb 5, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) - Retail bellwether John Lewis JLP.UL posted a third straight week of increased sales to complete a "cracking" January, indicating shoppers are still prepared to spend despite a gloomy macro-economic backdrop.



John Lewis in Reading, Berkshire

The employee-owned group said on Friday 5 February sales at its 28 department stores, one John Lewis at home store, and internet business, increased 15.6 percent to 50 million pounds ($78.6 million) in the week to January 30 against the same week last year.

Managing Director Andy Street said the outcome was driven by a 16.6 percent increase in fashion sales, a 15.7 percent rise in homewares sales and a 14.4 percent increase in the electricals and home technology category.

"This completed a cracking January and an impressive (second) half year," leaving the firm "admirably placed for the new trading year," he said.

The John Lewis data was published two days after a survey from the Nationwide Building Society said consumer confidence rose in January but households showed less desire to spend than normal for the start of the year.

"Despite the robust John Lewis performance, the suspicion remains that the upside for consumer spending -- and hence overall economic growth -- will be limited in 2010 as households face still very challenging conditions, notably including high unemployment, low earnings growth, high debt levels, January's VAT hike and the prospect of further fiscal tightening," said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

John Lewis also owns the 222-store Waitrose supermarket chain.

Week to January 30 sales here increased 15.7 percent to 89.7 million pounds, reinforcing Waitrose's current position as the UK's fastest growing grocer.

"At the start of the trading year we were in the midst of a recession and many predicted that the economic climate would be particularly challenging for us," said Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price.

"However ... we have ended the year by being the fastest growing food retail business in the UK, overtaking Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) food sales for the first time in our history."

(Reporting by James Davey, editing by Mark Potter)

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