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Sales suffer at John Lewis as consumer confidence drops

Published: 28 January 2011
John Lewis has reported a 2.2% decline in sales for the week to January 22, as UK consumer confidence suffered its biggest monthly drop in nearly 20 years.
Sales suffer at John Lewis as consumer confidence drops
Only two out of the retailer's 29 stores showed positive growth, as overall sales fell to £50.1m, down from £51.2m for the same month last year.

However, John Lewis said comparisons against last year are "difficult to read" due to the heavy snow in the first week of January 2010 and the resulting uplift in trade over the following weeks. It also added that its full-year performance would be strong.

Beds and bedroom furniture rose 18% on last year, while the bath shop saw an increase of 8%, driven by good volumes of stock in Special Buy towels. The new 'Little Home' range for children launched in shops and online to "favourable reviews" from customers, said the retailer.

White goods performed strongly, with both large and small electrical delivering double-digit growth on last year.

Director for operational development Lesley Ballantyne said: "With just one week of the trading year left to trade, we will end the year with a strong double-digit increase to be proud of. We can go into the new financial year with the confidence that our service, products and selling environment will continue to inspire existing and new customers."

The GfK NOP Consumer Confidence Index dropped eight points this month to -29, the lowest figure since March 2009.

In the 35 years since the index began, confidence has only slumped this much in a single month six times, the last being November to December 1994. The 'major purchase' index saw the biggest fall, dropping 21 points.

Nick Moon, md of GfK NOP Social Research commented: "The VAT increase is the first of the government's austerity measures that has had a widespread impact on consumers, and it seems to have hit people's economic confidence hard, especially as the biggest drop was in consumers' appetite for major purchases. With inflation on the up and the full force of the cuts yet to hit, these figures could be the beginning of a very painful period."

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