John Lewis sales crept back into positive territory for the week to February 23, while stablemate supermarket chain Waitrose delivered a powerful set of figures.

The department store posted sales up 2.7 per cent for the week, although John Lewis admitted that February had been a “soft” sales period. For the four weeks to February 23, the retailer’s sales were up only 1.7 per cent. Last week, John Lewis reported that its sales figures for the week to February 16, down 3.4 per cent, were the toughest in recent memory.

John Lewis managing director Andy Street said: “Our four-week figure of 1.7 per cent (including the foodhall) is a slowdown from the cracking December and January form, but is, we suspect, still very respectable against the market.

“The story is very different for our three main product areas. Clothing posted another powerful week across men’s, women’s and children’s fashion to round off a great start to the new half [year].”

However, Investec analyst David Jeary said the figures are not as robust as they appear, saying that “the underlying trend is still poor”. He said that the comparative sales figures for the same week last year were deflated by John Lewis deferring its Direct multichannel sales into the following week. Jeary said the 2.7 per cent increase therefore includes an 80 per cent uplift from the Direct business, accounting for much of the uplift for the week to February 23.

Waitrose posted total sales up 6.5 per cent. Waitrose finance director Richard Mayfield said: “Last week was half-term in many areas and saw some variable weather. Poultry, especially organic and free-range, was in high demand and customers responded well to the Bacon Connoisseurs week.”