The department store offered an early glimpse into how retailers are faring during the crucial Christmas trading season.
John Lewis said it had sold one tablet computer every second and a flatscreen 40-inch voice-command TV every minute on Friday, from the moment the day of promotions began at midnight. The retailer’s internet traffic was up by more than 300% in the early hours of the day, as consumers logged on to snap up discounted clothing, handbags and electrical goods. Overall, online sales were up 42% on last year and staff at John Lewis warehouses had to pack 87% more parcels on Saturday than last year.
The tills were also ringing in-store, with branches in London, Liverpool, York and Southampton among those notching up record daily takings.
The store revealed it had sold £179m worth of goods in the seven days to 29 November, a rise of 22% on last year, a result described as “spectacular” by industry watchers. This surpassed the previous sales peak of £164.4m which was set during the week before Christmas last year.
Consumers were splashing out on electrical goods, with sales up 41% on last year. But clothing was also popular, up 17% on last year, as were pricey handbags, up 37%.
“The year-on-year gain was all the more impressive given that John Lewis had also taken Black Friday very seriously in 2013,” said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.
The results do not cover Cyber Monday, another industry-defined day to encourage consumers to part with their cash just after payday. Analysts think Black Friday has eclipsed Cyber Monday, with shoppers spending £850m on the Friday, compared to an expected take of £650m on Monday. According to online retail experts IMRG, the number of visits to shopping websites hit 181m on Friday, 50% above expectations.
John Lewis was not offering discounted goods on Cyber Monday, although many retailers continued their promotions over the weekend into Monday.
Amid the decline in the manufacturing sector, the UK has become increasingly dependent on consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. Archer said that the fundamentals for consumer spending this Christmas were decent, citing high consumer confidence, high employment and low inflation.
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