Sales at John Lewis department stores rose 15.8% last week to £51.4m, helped by strong sales of home products.

The retailer reported that trade was “cracking” in the period to March 20 and that performance had beaten the equivalent Easter period in 2008. Sales rose at all branches except three and the direct business was especially strong, up 53%.

Home sales surged 19%, doing well online and in stores, and furniture was up 29%. The retailer said: “The approach to Easter is typically a stimulus to home furnishing and this year appears no different,” said John Lewis Region A selling operations director Nat Wakely.

Electricals and home technology advanced 17% on the back of “terrific multichannel trade from both vision and white goods” while fashion sales were up 15% - the best increase in two years. New fashion brands such as NW3 compensated for accessories and beauty sales that were flat on last year.

At sister grocery chain Waitrose sales climbed 10.1% to £90.8m as shoppers anticipated the arrival of summer by purchasing such products as quiche and appetisers – both up 31%. “The trend is predicted to continue this weekend as clocks go forward – for many the real start of spring,” said Waitrose finance director Tom Athron.

Seafood did well, and polish and dusters rose 15% and 19% respectively as people began spring cleaning.