Sales at John Lewis department stores climbed 16.5% to £58.3m last week as the back-to-school selling season got autumn off to a “flying start”.

The retailer reported that despite a “sluggish” beginning to the week, during which northern stores continued to face “challenging” conditions and there was Tube strike in London, the period to September 11 ended strongly.

Price-matching prompted by Debenhams’ promotion drove growth in fashion and home categories by 25% and 15% respectively. Sales of electrical and home technology products advanced 9%. posted a 45% rise.

John Lewis said its stores in “middle England” such as Leicester and Trafford  were the best performers and the completion of changes to the womenswear department in Oxford Street ”showed through in fantastic sales, particularly in women’s shoes”.

Operations director Dino Rocos said: “Overall an exceptional week’s trading result and, if we continue at this level, a great opportunity to maximise the successful autumn ranges through September and October.”

Turnover at grocery chain Waitrose climbed 9.6% over the week to £89.8m. Sales of Italian and Indian ready meals were particularly good. Organic food was in demand as shoppers bought for Organic Food Fortnight.

Yesterday John Lewis Partnershipreported a 28% increase in first-half profits.