Mar 7, 2010
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John Lewis adds to evidence of February sales bounce

Mar 7, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) - Bellwether retailer John Lewis JLP.UL posted another double-digit percentage rise in weekly sales as wet weather drove customers to its stores, adding to evidence consumer spending bounced back in February.

The employee-owned group said on Friday 5 March sales at its 28 department stores, one John Lewis "at home" store and its Internet business rose 14.8 percent year-on-year in the week to February 27 to 50.4 million pounds.

That was the seventh straight double-digit percentage rise.

"Even allowing for the fact that John Lewis has been outperforming the sector as a whole, this robust performance boosts hopes that retail sales bounced back appreciably in February after being hit hard in January by the very bad weather," said Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

The Confederation of British Industry said last week that retail sales volumes rose at their fastest pace in nearly three years in February.

Analysts do, however, remain wary about prospects for spending amid fears that steps to cut government borrowing after a general election, that must be held by June, could hit consumer confidence.

On Wednesday 3 March John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield said signs of a consumer recovery in Britain were a "false dawn.

The firm said its latest weekly performance was driven by a 20 percent rise in both fashion and homewares sales. Sales in the electricals and home technology category increased 2.7 percent.

"The very wet weather had a predictable result for many branches with wellies and umbrellas flying out," it said.

John Lewis also owns the 224-store Waitrose supermarket chain.

Week to February 27 sales here increased 11.7 percent to 88.9 million pounds, reinforcing Waitrose's current position as the UK's fastest growing grocer.

The firm said the renewed popularity of afternoon tea drove a 28 percent uplift in sales of large cakes and a 37 percent rise in smaller cakes.

(Reporting by James Davey, editing by Mark Potter)

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