John Lewis Partnership “traded well” over the six weeks to December 30, according to chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield.
Gross sales totalled £1,962 million – up 2.5% on last year – with 3.6% growth for John Lewis and 1.4% for Waitrose. John Lewis Partnership operates 49 John Lewis shops across the UK, johnlewis.com, 352 Waitrose shops, waitrose.com and business-to-business contracts in the UK and abroad.
Sir Charlie Mayfield said the performance was due to “the exceptional hard work and commitment of our Partners [staff]. We focused on our differentiated product offering, attention to service and strong value proposition, underpinned by our Never Knowingly Undersold promise.”
But he added: “The pressure on margin seen in the first half of the year has intensified because of our choice to maintain competitive prices, despite higher costs mainly due to the weaker exchange rate. This will negatively affect full-year financial results.”
Looking ahead to 2018/19, he expects trading to be “volatile, due to the economic environment” and anticipates that “competitive intensity will continue, driven by the structural changes taking place in the retail industry”.
At Waitrose, like-for-like sales rose by 1.5% over the festive period. The supermarket chain’s online business performed “very strongly”, achieving the biggest week of sales in its history.
Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “We were able to create a real festive buzz [in-store]. For example, we doubled the number of tastings in our branches for some of our new products, such as our Chocolate and Ginger Mince Pies. Our one-day-only offers were also very successful and drove footfall.”
Waitrose launched a total of 500 new festive products including Heston Citrus Sherbet Lazy Gin, which sold a month’s worth of stock in one day. In addition, sales of its premium range Waitrose 1 products were up by 4.2% in volume.
At department store group John Lewis, like-for-like sales lifted by 3.1% over and Black Friday week was the busiest in its history, with a record hour for online trade.
He said: “Our inspiring Christmas proposition, innovative product assortment and competitive position on price helped us to build sales momentum across the period. We also offered customers popular shop experiences including ‘my John Lewis’ customer events which saw a 15% increase in attendance and an 18% uplift in sales compared with last year.
“Across the three product areas, there was a particularly good performance in Fashion which was up 4.9%, and EHT [Electricals & Home Technology] which was up 5%, while Home was down 0.3% as customers were more cautious about bigger purchases for their homes.”
John Lewis Partnership plc will report its full year results ending January 27 on March 8. As usual, the staff’s annual bonus will be decided in March.
Success story: Waitrose which sold a month’s worth of stock in one day of Heston Citrus Sherbet Lazy Gin