John Lewis department store sales rose by a higher than expected 6.3% last week, despite a strong year-on-year comparative.

Grocery stablemate Waitrose notched up a 12.9% advance, helped by strong sales of fruit and vegetables.

The performances meant John Lewis Partnership’s sales climbed 10.2% to £139.7m in the week to October 3.

John Lewis region A selling operations director Nat Wakely said 14 branches delivered sales ahead of last year, led by Bluewater which posted a 12% uplift.

He reported that, across the chain, fashion sales rose 12.5%, home 2.9% and electricals and technology 2.8%. Sales of cold weather merchandise were held back by mild weather.

Wakely said it had been an “excellent, not least because we did not expect it to be quite so good”. He observed: “The weather was a lot milder this year compared to last and the same calendar week a year ago was our strongest in percentage terms in the October trading period, so it looked like a high hurdle to jump.”

Waitrose commercial director Richard Hodgson said sales of fruit were up 19% last week, and sales of Essential Waitrose products rose by 15.7% and now account for 16.5% of total food sales.

He said: “There are signs that customers are planning ahead for Christmas, with sales of gift food up by 177% on last year.”

Next week Waitrose launches its first “slow-cooking” meal deal. Shoppers can choose cuts of meat for casseroling and stewing, a vegetable pack, a choice of dessert and a bottle of wine or box of Duchy Original chocolates for £10.