Sales fell at John Lewis last week, with the department store chain blaming the timing of school half-term for the decline.

Total sales in the week to 19 February were down 0.4%, and by 2.1% excluding VAT. Half-term was a week later in England this year, which the retailer blamed for a decline in footfall. In Scotland, where the timing of half-term was unchanged, all three stores were in positive territory, but only two stores in England - Peter Jones in London and Knight & Lee in Southsea - managed to increase sales, even taking higher VAT into account.

Fashion and home sales were both down, but electricals and home technology managed a modest increase. Head of selling operations for John Lewis At Home Maggie Porteous said this week the retailer was seeing the footfall benefits of the later timing of half-term, implying that next week’s figures should be better.

Sister supermarket chain Waitrose fared much better, with sales up 13.3%, although this was much slower growth than last year when sales rose 29% in the same week. Seafood and sparkling wine were strong performing categories, while last minute Valentine’s shoppers helped flower sales rise 37%.