John Lewis sales soared over Christmas period

LONDON (Reuters) - Bellwether retailer John Lewis posted a surge in sales over the Christmas period, including its best ever week's trading, and forecast a slow recovery in consumer spending in 2010.


Womenswear at John Lewis - Photo: www.johnlewis.com

"As the year progresses we expect to see a long slow recovery with the retailers who continue to focus on giving customers what they want prospering," Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis, said on Tuesday 5 January.

The employee-owned retailer said its 29 department stores saw sales rise 15.8 percent in the five weeks to January 2, driven by fashion and beauty sales up 22 percent, a 19.6 increase in homewares, and electricals and home technology 11.4 percent higher.

"We have seen excellent sales during Christmas and Clearance," Street said.

"The five-week period has seen a number of records broken. Sales surpassed the 100 million pounds milestone on four separate weeks, the most recent being the week ending January 2, and we beat our previous biggest ever week from 2007 in early December."

Britain is taking longer to emerge from recession than most major economies. But the early signs are that if consumers cut back on going out over Christmas, they were prepared to spend a little more on enjoying themselves at home.

John Lewis's chain of 222 Waitrose supermarkets said sales rose 20.5 percent year-on-year in the week to December 26, while grocer Asda said it saw a surge in sales of premium products in a "solid" Christmas.

In the quoted retail sector, Next is expected to kick off a slew of Christmas trading updates on Tuesday 5 January, followed by Marks & Spencer on Wednesday 6 January, and J Sainsbury on Thursday 7 January.

($1 = 0.6211 pound)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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