January 2, 2019 / 10:50 AM / a year ago

Last-minute demand boosts John Lewis Christmas sales

Shoppers walk past the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in London, Britain December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s John Lewis said sales in its department stores rose 4.5 percent in the week ending December 29, boosted by strong demand on Christmas Eve and “a confident start to post-Christmas clearance both online and in shops”.

Fashion sales were up 10.7 percent on the previous year, with women’s cashmere and accessories performing well, the employee-owned retailer said. Christmas shoppers also spent more on beauty and wellbeing.

John Lewis is the first retailer to update on trading at the end of a tough year for a sector that has seen a string of chains going out of business and rival department stores Debenhams DEB.L and House of Fraser announcing store closures.

Stores were pinning hopes on a last-minute surge in demand before Christmas and customers flocking to post-Christmas sales to counter poor trading in November and early December.

John Lewis - Britain’s biggest department stores operator - said demand was “very strong” on Christmas Eve, indicating that shoppers had delayed rather than cut spending, and customers were also looking for bargains in its clearance sale, both online and in store.

Industry data had indicated that the post-Christmas sales started slowly, with the number of shoppers visiting shopping centres and retail districts dipping year-on-year the day after Christmas, traditionally one of the busiest of the year.

John Lewis said sales at its upmarket Waitrose supermarket chain rose 19.2 percent in the same week, although the figure was heavily distorted by the fall of Christmas and new year. Sales the prior week were down 11.7 percent.

Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Louise Heavens

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