John Lewis provides upbeat Christmas trading snapshot

A flood of Christmas performance reports are expected in coming days
A flood of Christmas performance reports are expected in coming days

A surge in shoppers looking for last-minute gifts helped lift sales at John Lewis over the festive period as the retailer gave the first glimpse of how trading fared over Christmas.

In the week to December 29, sales at the department store chain were up 4.5%, driven by a 103% increase in gift food purchases.

The John Lewis gifts, cooking and dining segment also had a stellar week, with sales up 25%.

The retailer said it was boosted by shoppers buying last-minute Christmas presents, adding that it experienced “very strong sales on Christmas Eve and a confident start to clearance sales both online and in shops”.

Fashion sales grew 10.7%, with a strong performance in women’s cashmere, but home sales were down 2.3%. Figures for the week to December 22 show that John Lewis sales were up 4.2%.

The figures come ahead of what is expected to be another tough year for department store chains following a disastrous 2018 that saw the collapse of House of Fraser.

The John Lewis Partnership itself revealed in September a 98.8% crash in half year profits as it battles against “challenging times” and the most promotional market for nearly a decade.

Retailers have been battling the rise of online shopping, higher costs and plummeting consumer confidence as shoppers rein in spending amid Brexit uncertainty.