While the latest BRC figures continue to point to a volatile and frustratingly slow recovery - like-for-like retail sales increased 1.9% year on year in January.
While the latest BRC figures continue to point to a volatile and frustratingly slow recovery - like-for-like retail sales increased 1.9% year on year in January, bucking the view trading would be wiped out by the snow - one set of data has become reassuringly predictable.
John Lewis’ sales figures for the week ending January 26 were up 9.8%, bringing to a close what managing director Andy Street called an “impressive year”. Whether it was the Alice Temperley collaboration, Olympic sponsorship or a golden touch with Christmas adverts, the retailer has steered an assured path this year.
In the last six months, sales increased 13%, slower, admittedly, than the 18.5% registered in the same period a year earlier, but industry leading nonetheless. But what caught the eye is the rounded performance of the business.
Digital sales have attracted the attention - in the last six months online sales leapt 40% - but bricks as well as clicks have delivered. In fact, of the 39 stores, only four registered a sales decline for the period, balanced neatly by another four in double-digit growth. Likewise, the retailer is fast becoming a go-to store for technology products. But the home sector also grew 6.1% in the six months, while the transformation of the fashion offer continues to bear fruit, delivering a 10.5% uplift.
John Lewis’ target market is better shielded than most to the ill winds of the downturn and some have suggested its success reflects that positioning as much as its retail acumen. But that does a disservice to how forward thinking Street and his team have and continue to be - the expansion of its IT division is the latest example.
The John Lewis weekly numbers have long been a tool to gauge the general health of the sector. But as the growth continues to outpace the market, the retailer is fast moving from bellwether to standard bearer.