Snow chills John Lewis sales ahead of Christmas

Snow chills John Lewis sales ahead of Christmas
FILE PHOTO - The John Lewis store on Oxford Street is seen in central London December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall
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LONDON (Reuters) – Sales at British department store John Lewis edged lower last week, hurt by disruption caused by severe winter weather in many parts of the UK, it said on Tuesday.

As the only major British retailer to publish weekly sales data, John Lewis provides the most up-to-date snapshot of shopping trends in the run-up to Christmas.

The employee-owned group said department store sales fell 0.6 percent to 171.4 million pounds in the week to Dec. 16.

“Adverse weather and heavy snow across the country saw fewer people head outside to shop – impacting all categories,” John Lewis director Maggie Porteous said.

“However, trade picked up towards the end of the week,” she said.

Sales at John Lewis’s upmarket grocery chain Waitrose were flat on the year at 164.2 million pounds.

Official data published last week showed British shoppers pounced on electrical goods and other bargains in last month’s Black Friday sales, giving an unexpectedly big boost to retail sales, which contrasted with earlier signs of a subdued start to Christmas spending.

British consumers have been squeezed through most of this year by rising inflation which hit its highest in nearly six years last month, at a time when wages are failing to keep up.

Retail researcher Springboard reported total shopper footfall fell 7.6 percent in the week to Dec. 16, reflecting the snow impact and consumers’ budgetary constraints, as well as the growing popularity of online shopping.

Most British retailers will update on Christmas trading in January. John Lewis and clothing retailer Next <NXT.L> are scheduled to report on Jan. 3.

Going into December, the supermarkets have been performing more robustly than non-food retailers, helped by inflation, while online continues to gain share in both parts of the industry.

(Reporting by James Davey. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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