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January 22, 2010    

John Lewis recovers but Waitrose surges due to panic buying

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by Kay Murchie

The John Lewis Partnership, which is seen as a barometer of British retailing, today announced that takings recovered slightly in the week to 16 January compared with the previous week when heavy snowfall affected much of the country.

In the week to 16 January, sales were up 11.1% on the same period a year ago. The previous week, takings had dived by 30% on year.

The renowned employee-owned department store said sales of women’s outerwear was up 44%, while sales of sports clothing surged.

Meanwhile, at its Waitrose supermarket chain, sales jumped as the big freeze continues to result in ‘panic buying’ of essential food items.

Waitrose said total sales were up 16.6% compared with the same week a year ago, fuelled by frozen food buying.

Sales of frozen chickens were up 125% on last year, while sales of pies rose 51%. Those looking for healthy options resulted in higher sales in frozen soya beans, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, rising 262%, 100% and 64% respectively.

Commenting on today’s figures, Howard Archer, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, told The Times: “Given that John Lewis sales are traditionally seen as a good bellwether for the state of consumer spending (although they have actually been substantially out-performing recently), the pick up in their sales as weather conditions eased and reports of pent-up consumer demand reinforces belief that the overall impact on the bad weather on consumer spending should be limited with much of the lost trade being recouped.”

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