John Lewis fashion sales boom in latest week but mainly on price-matching

With a raft of fashion retailers, including Superdry, Asos and Primark, reporting tough recent trading and John Lewis saying its Fashion department sales fell almost 7% in its last weekly report, its Tuesday update was closely watched for any sign of recovery or further weakness.


John Lewis


Did it deliver either? Well, fortunately it veered towards the recovery end of the spectrum, although the good news may not have been quite what it seemed. 

Overall, John Lewis Partnership sales were flat at almost £336 million year-on-year in the week to December 18 as the Waitrose supermarkets proved sluggish. But the John Lewis department store chain and webstore saw its sales rising 1.8% and the Fashion department’s sales rose a storming 9.3%.

But there’s a downside to this. The company said that both the overall rise and the Fashion department increase were driven by price-matching competitor markdowns. Given how widespread and deep some of those markdowns have been (as much as 50% for many chains), John Lewis matching them could be bad news for profits further down the line.

But staying on the positive side, the retailer also said that womenswear and menswear sales were up 8.5% and 7.2% respectively and that the Beauty, Wellbeing and Leisure category was up 15.7% across the week.

A worse performer was the Home department, as it has been for most of this year, with sales down 1.7% overall. But Christmas Shop had a good week with sales up 1.1% on last year, sales of Christmas trees rose 10% and gift food continued to generate strong interest. Customers preparing their homes for Christmas increased sales of some home accessories with lighting sales up 10% on last year.

And in the electricals area, the retailer also said that it saw strong sales of Dyson Airwrap hairstylers and of smartwatches.

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