John Lewis announces sales fall in ‘tough trading’

Department store John Lewis has reported another difficult week for sales in the latest sign that retailers endured a grim month in August.

The firm said sales for the week ending August 29 were down 3.4 per cent compared with last year, after falling 5.9 per cent in the prior week. They were three per cent lower in the four weeks to August 29.

It came as latest figures from accountancy firm BDO showed high street sales fell 4.3 per cent last month compared to 2014, the biggest fall since November 2008 - the height of the financial crisis.

There are growing signs that consumers last month preferred to spend spare cash on late holiday getaways amid the miserable August weather.

Buying and brand director Paula Nickolds said prospects were looking better.

“A tough trading period closed with another difficult week, but with definite signs in the run-up to the Bank Holiday weekend that there is plenty of pent-up demand for us to target in September,” she said.

The firm said latest weekly fashion sales were down 0.9 per cent and home sales by 0.4 per cent while electricals and home technology were 9.3 per cent lower.

Sales at its flagship department store in London’s Oxford Street were down 13.8 per cent.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Freddie George said it was a key week for the sector “before the children go back to the school and a week when consumers start to shop for their autumn wardrobes”.

He added: “These figures are thus in our view very disappointing probably impacted by consumers, particularly those based in the south, choosing to take holidays.”