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Online sales keep retailers afloat over Christmas

Kathleen Hall

Strong online sales boosted revenue growth for Next and John Lewis over the tough Christmas trading period, said the retailers in their separate trading reports.

Next reported a total sales increase of 3.4% compared to last year, driven by directory sales growth of 16.9%. However, in-store sales were down by 2.7%.

John Lewis saw total sales grow by 9.3% compared with last year, with online sales for the five weeks up 27.9% on last year.

Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis, said: “The strength of our online operation was very much in evidence during this key five week period, confirming our strength as a pre-eminent multi-channel retailer.

“Sales at johnlewis.com broke through the £600m milestone during December and our Click and Collect operation, giving customers the flexibility of buying online and collecting from 129 John Lewis and Waitrose branches, continued operating right up to Christmas Eve in John Lewis and saw a 90% increase in usage.”

Lisa Byfield-Green, analyst at Planet Retail, said high street retailers that have invested in in e-commerce and click and collect services were far more likely to see strong results over the competitive Christmas trading period.

“The fact people are now using their mobile phones much more to browse and purchase items has made the trend for online growth even stronger this year,” she said.

“Amazon is expecting strong results this year, and bricks and mortar retailers have invested to compete with it. John Lewis saw the online opportunity early on, as has Debenhams. And the fact that Next’s directory has done so well while its instrore sales have decreased demonstrates a lot about people’s shopping habits.”

Byfield-Green added that other retailers would not fare so well over the Christmas period. “HMV is a good example, as it is suffering the consequences of digital downloads. I would not expect its sales update to be very good.”


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