LONDON (Reuters) - British department store chain John Lewis enjoyed the most lucrative week in its 150-year-history thanks to “Black Friday” business which helped to drive sales nearly five percent higher in the five weeks to Dec. 27.
However, the company said the late November discounting brought by the import of Black Friday from the United States was disrupting traditional Christmas trading patterns and may have to be tempered.
Managing Director Andy Street questioned whether it was healthy for the retail industry to concentrate so much business on one day, followed by a relatively flat period afterwards.
“The answer is probably not,” he told BBC Radio on Monday.
“So my expectation is that Black Friday might even have reached a high water mark in the UK and we’ll actually be far more considerate next year about whether we want as an industry to concentrate business all in that day,” he said.
While sales in the Nov. 28 Black Friday event were led by electricals and home technology, the most popular gifts for Christmas included fitness trackers, coffee machines and kitchen appliances, the employee-owned group said.
Sales in the five-week period hit 777 million pounds, up 4.8 percent on a like-for-like basis on a year before, driven by a 19 percent jump in online sales. Shop sales were level with last year.
John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store group, outperformed many of its rivals during the economic downturn, due to its strong online offering, modern stores and more affluent customer base.
The jump in online demand meant some 36 percent of all group sales were conducted via the johnlewis.com website during the Christmas period, with more than half of those being collected in shops via the “Click & Collect” delivery option.
The group is one of the first in the British sector to report on its performance in the weeks running up to Christmas, a key trading period.
Retailer Next said last week it had enjoyed a solid rise in Christmas sales, especially online, without having to resort to the discounting seen on many shopping streets.
Updates are due this week from Marks & Spencer and supermarket groups Tesco and Sainsbury.
For the year ahead, many retailers are more optimistic on their prospects given rising incomes and higher employment in Britain.
Editing by David Holmes/Keith Weir