John Lewis Starts U.K. Holiday Reporting With 15% Jump in Sales

John Lewis Partnership Plc department-store sales rose 15 percent over the Christmas season as U.K. consumers put a difficult year behind them, snapping up products like tablet computers and placing more online orders.

Sales increased to 684.8 million pounds ($1.16 billion) in the five weeks ended Dec. 29, the employee-owned retailer said in a statement today. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 13 percent, while Internet revenue gained 44 percent.

John Lewis is the first of the major U.K. non-food chains to report on its Christmas performance. Next Plc, the country’s second-largest clothing retailer, is due to report tomorrow, with Espirito Santo analysts estimating a 3.2 percent increase in U.K. brand sales for the 21 weeks ended Dec. 24.

Overall, holiday business for U.K. retailers was “not exceptional,” according to the British Retail Consortium, which forecasts that sales only increased modestly.

John Lewis, known for its “Never Knowingly Undersold” price promise, said sales of electrical items and home technology rose 31 percent from a year earlier. Fashion revenue gained 10 percent and home-furnishings sales rose 6.2 percent. Online sales in December topped 800 million pounds, a record.

“The success of our online operation and our pre-eminence as an omni-channel retailer cannot be underestimated,” Managing Director Andy Street said in the statement.

John Lewis’s “stellar” sales figures set “an extremely high bar that most other retailers will struggle to match,” Neil Saunders, managing director of market researcher Conlumino, said by e-mail. “More than ever before this Christmas was one dominated by online, and John Lewis was in an ideal position to capitalize on this trend,” with its click-and-collect offer.

Waitrose Ltd., the upscale grocery chain owned by John Lewis, last week reported record Christmas sales.

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