John Lewis blamed the summer exam results and the Olympics as a distraction for its customers as it suffered a 4.2 per cent drop in sales for the week to August 16.

Fashion sales climbed 1.3 per cent at the department store group, but electricals and technology, and homewares suffered, down 5.3 per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively.

John Lewis head of internal communications Simon Fowler said trade at its two newest branches continued well. Trading in Cambridge was robust, according to Fowler, especially in electricals and fitted kitchens. In Liverpool, audio and TV performed particularly well.

The out-of-town stores had another poor week, with sales at Bluewater down 14.6 per cent, Cribbs Causeway down 13 per cent and Milton Keynes down 18.2 per cent.

“More changeable weather this week should help encourage an increase in shopping activity and this, coupled with the arrival of plenty of autumn stock, will certainly provide plenty of inspiration and choice,” said Fowler.

Sales at Waitrose were up 2.3 per cent for the week. The cold weather helped drive sales of tea and coffee, up 8 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Spirits were up 9 per cent, driven by sales of whisky and rum.