• John Lewis like-for-likes rise 5.1%
  • Waitrose like-for-likes slip 1.4%
  • Trade characterised by ‘three peaks’

Like-for-like sales at John Lewis department stores rose over the Christmas period but fell at sister grocer Waitrose.

The performance reflected a trading period which brought “significant shifts in trade patterns” in general merchandise and continued tough conditions in food retail, parent John Lewis Partnership reported.

The John Lewis department store business generated a 5.1% like-for-like sales advance in the six weeks to January 2. Gross sales rose 6.9% to £951.3m.

Waitrose’s gross sales advanced 1.2% to £859.8m but slipped 1.4% on a like-for-like basis.

At the department stores business “patterns of trade shifted significantly”, the retailer reported.

Seasonal shift

John Lewis said the period was “characterised by three distinct sales peaks – Black Friday, Christmas and clearance – with higher sales and a different channel mix for each peak”.

On Black Friday weekend, for instance, the retailer processed 18% more parcels than last year.

However sales in shops over the six-week period were down 1.2%, reflecting lower footfall in the run-up to Christmas.

But store sales then rose 16.2% during the first week of clearance.

Online sales climbed 21.4%, to account for 40% of the total over the period.

Sales of home goods rose 5.1%, fashion was ahead 6.1% and electricals and home technology climbed 9.6% over the six weeks.

Concentrated spikes

At Waitrose, “peak trade came particularly late and was more concentrated than usual in the days before Christmas,” the retailer said. Online grocery sales rose 7.9% over the period.

The grocer’s managing director Mark Price said: “Although it came very late, with a concentration of trade in the three days immediately before 25 December, we had a profitable Christmas with good margins and our costs well controlled.

“There was no festive easing of the tough market conditions we’ve seen throughout 2015 and it was thanks to the incredible efforts of our Partners that we achieved some record trading days and saw strong online growth.”

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “This has been a strong Christmas trading period for the Partnership despite the non-food market seeing significant shifts in trade patterns and the grocery market continuing to be challenging.

“Our performance reflects to a large extent the significant investment we have made in our distribution and IT capability.

“Despite the fact trade was even more concentrated across a number of very busy shopping days, our operations performed especially well.”