John Lewis reports strong Christmas trading period

Total sales at the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) in the six weeks to Saturday January 2 were up 4.1% from the same period last year to £1,811.1m.

JLP operates 46 John Lewis shops across the UK (32 department stores, 12 John Lewis ‘at home’ and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2), johnlewis.com, 346 Waitrose supermarkets and waitrose.com.

John Lewis sales up 6.9% to £951.3m,  with like-for-like sales up 5.1%. Online sales were up 21.4%, representing 40% of total sales. There was a balanced contribution from all three product areas: Home up 5.1%, Fashion up 6.1% and EHT (electricals & home technology) up 9.6%

Waitrose gross sales (excluding fuel) were up 1.2% to £859.8m, with like-for-like sales down 1.4%. Sales through the grocery chain’s direct services websites – including waitrosekitchen.com, which offers housewares – grew by 28.1%

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

“John Lewis achieved another very strong sales performance with impressive growth across all three categories of Fashion, Home and EHT.  Waitrose had record trading days leading up to Christmas and good growth online, while like-for-like sales declined overall during the six-week period.

“Click & Collect continued to show the strength of our two brands working together as a proposition for customers, with 35% of John Lewis online orders collected from Waitrose branches. I was particularly pleased to see overall customer numbers increase 5.8% against the same period last year.

“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.”

JLP said peak trade came particularly late this year and was more concentrated than usual in the days before Christmas. Waitrose had record trading days on December 23 and December 24, with sales up 6% and up 5.5% respectively.

The business noted that patterns of trade shifted significantly, characterised by three distinct sales peaks – Black Friday, Christmas and Clearance – with higher sales and a different channel mix for each peak.

Sir Charlie Mayfield said that “the combination of our shops, website and fulfilment centres worked together effectively.  For example, on the Black Friday weekend our distribution teams processed 18% more parcels than last year, which equated to five units per second during the peak hour. Sales in our shops for the total six week period were down 1.2%, reflecting lower footfall pre-Christmas, but were up 16.2% during the first week of Clearance (week ending January 2).

“Online sales grew by 21.4% compared to last year and mobile continued to be our fastest-growing channel, with sales from smartphones and tablets up 31%. Sales through Click & Collect were up 16% and it was the delivery method of choice for half of all online orders.”

He concluded: “Our strong Christmas trading performance gives us further confidence in the guidance provided at our interim results in September, where we indicated that we expected the full year profit before Partnership Bonus, tax and exceptionals to be between £270m and £320m. This guidance reflected both good operational progress but also an increase of approximately £60 million in pension charges as a result of market driven volatility. Our guidance therefore remains unchanged.”

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