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John Lewis weekly sales rise

Source: Reuters - Fri 30th Oct 2009

John Lewis, the employee-owned group seen as a barometer of British retailing, posted a sixth consecutive week of rising department store sales, but said it was still too early to talk of a sustained consumer recovery.

The firm said on Friday sales at its department stores rose 9.1 percent year-on-year to 56.8 million pounds in the week ended October 24, helped by early Christmas shoppers and a stronger-than-expected launch of its first smaller format store focussed on furnishings and electrical products.

It also said, however, the rise was flattered by weak sales in the same period last year and noted sales were down 1.5 percent compared with the same week two years ago.

"We continue to keep a watchful eye on our two-year comparisons, which remind us we are not yet trading at a level that could allow us to relax or believe that sustained growth will come easy at any point in the near future" it said.

Retail stocks have risen sharply over recent months on hopes of a consumer recovery. But data have been mixed and many company executives warn trading is likely to stay tough into 2010, with unemployment and taxes expected to increase.

A monthly survey by GfK NOP showed on Friday that British consumer confidence rose in October to its highest level since January 2008.

But official retail sales data for September were flat for a second month running and below forecasts.

John Lewis, Britain's biggest department store group by revenues, said weekly sales of homewares rose 11.5 percent, just ahead of fashion on 11 percent and electricals and home technology goods on 6.1 percent.

Sales of the new "John Lewis at home" store in Poole, south England, beat its expectations by over 30 percent, it added. 

Weekly sales at Waitrose, the group's upmarket grocery chain, rose 15.1 percent to 84.5 million pounds, underscoring its current position as Britain's fastest-growing food retailer.

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