Sales of Christmas lines have soared at John Lewis department stores this week but the retailer warned that trading conditions generally remain harsh.

John Lewis reported total revenues down 0.6% between last Sunday and Wednesday November 16 but sales of products ranging from Advent calendars to iPads rocketed.

John Lewis head of selling operations, new format, Maggie Porteous said: “Trading conditions this week remain challenging as customers read of more economic woes and contend with inflationary pressures.”

She described the performance as “creditable” and observed the comparable period last year was strong. “From our current trading figures, we can see that shoppers are starting to feel festive, beginning to prepare their homes for Christmas and buying gifts for family and friends,” she said.

Sales of festive hampers climbed 33% year on year and sold at a rate of one every 15 minutes. The retailer’s gingerbread Advent calendar has delivered a sales increase 96 per cent week on week.

John Lewis reported its biggest ever week of sales of iPads - up 230% year on year - and total sales of tablet computers rocketed 246%.

John Lewis typically issues sales data for the previous week on a Friday, but during the Christmas period releases data to a faster schedule, helping to paint a more up to date picture of seasonal trading. In the week to Saturday November 12, sales fell 0.8% year on year.