John Lewis sales hit as fashion retailers step back from promotions

John Lewis has blamed a lack of promotions by rivals for a drop in footfall that impacted its sales from passing trade. 

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John Lewis sales were up over Christmas, making it one of the festive winners

Sales in the week to 13 September were down 3.5 per cent year on year with fashion particularly affected, falling 13.1 per cent. John Lewis puts the fall down to reduced promotional activity, as well as unseasonably warm weather delaying the sale of winter essentials such as coats and scarves.

Online sales growth also slowed to 5.6 per cent year on year, again affected by a slowdown in fashion.

This time last year the high street was full of promotions as brands focused their marketing on discounting in a bid to boost footfall in the face of slow sales. Retailers such as Debenhams, Marks and Spencers and New Look were all offering sales promotions in a bid to lure shoppers to the high street.

However, many were stung by the tactic, with Debenhams forced to issue a profit warning earlier this year blaming “unprecedented” promotional activity. It has since overhauled its promotions strategy to cut back on the number of sales it runs and focus on “clearly defined promotional periods” with a number of other retailers, including M&S, following suit.

Johnathan March, buying director for electricals and home technology, says: “A milder week for both weather at sales. Footfall was restricted on the year due to less promotional activity on the high street. Fashion sales were down on the year, driven by mild weather and reduced promotional activity.”

At sister brand Waitrose, sales were up 6.5 per cent helped by the warmer weather and major outdoor events such as the Proms and Invictus Games. Mark Williamson, Waitrose’s commercial director, says the supermarket saw customers’ dining habits reflect the weather rather than the season with sales of bags of charcoal, slow-cooked barbecue meats and quiche all increasing.

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