John Lewis has posted an 8.3 per cent fall in sales at its eponymous department store business for the week to June 28.

John Lewis commercial director Phil Hullah said the figures compared with a record week last year, but analysts said the performance, following Marks & Spencer’s profit warning on Wednesday, was likely to fuel fears for the retail sector’s health.

Hullah said there had been a “really encouraging start” to the summer Sale. He maintained: “Last year’s first day – an all-time record – was always going to be difficult to assail, but not only did the division deliver a huge sterling result, we also recorded more than 20 per cent growth versus our opening day two years ago.”

Altium analyst Dave Stoddart said: “The situation is not as bad as it first appears, but it still isn’t good. Looking at the median decline to eliminate the twin impacts of strong Direct growth and the refurbishment of Oxford Street – both of which flatter the headline sales decline – shows the trend remains firmly negative.”

Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George noted that out-of-town stores continued to perform poorly. He said: “There must be more going on here than the higher cost of petrol putting shoppers off going to these destination outlets – perhaps they are progressively being viewed as not attractive places to visit during the summer.”

Sales at John Lewis’s supermarket chain,Waitrose climbed 3 per cent over the week. John Lewis Partnership as a whole recorded a 1.9 per cent decline.