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Halloween shopping lifts John Lewis

Source: Reuters - Fri 6th Nov 2009

Weekly sales at John Lewis JLP.UL department stores jumped 7.8 percent year-on-year, boosted by demand for Halloween products and early Christmas shopping and adding to signs of a consumer recovery in Britain.

However the employee-owned group, which is seen as a barometer for British retail spending, signalled on Friday the recovery remained fragile, noting that sales rose at only four of its 28 department stores against the same week in 2007.

Sales totalled 61.9 million pounds in the week ended October 31, led by an 11.7 percent increase in electricals and home technology products.

Sales of homewares rose 9.7 percent, while fashion sales were up 6.3 percent.

"Against the sternest comparisons of the second half year, and with the weather much milder than we would ideally like, we beat last year's score by 8 percent" John Lewis said.

Rivals like Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next have all reported stronger-than-expected trading in recent weeks, raising hopes of a quick recovery from recession.

But the firms have also warned consumer confidence remains fragile and could take a hit next year when unemployment and taxes are expected to rise.

Official data for September also showed British retail sales failed to grow for a second month running.

John Lewis said weekly sales at its upmarket Waitrose grocery stores rose 10.1 percent to 84.9 million pounds, confirming its position as one of the fastest growing British supermarket chain.

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