John Lewis enjoys record Christmas as rivals languish

John Lewis enjoys record Christmas as rivals languish

LONDON - British department stores group John Lewis scored a 7.2 per cent rise in Christmas sales, as strong demand for items from tablet PCs to coffee machines helped it become one of this year's likely winners in the UK retail sector.

The improvement comes despite unusually stormy British weather in the run-up to Christmas and a still-cautious approach by many consumers, sparking speculation that many retailers would struggle during the key holiday period.

John Lewis said on Thursday sales from online outlets and shops rose to 734 million pounds ($1.2 billion) in the five weeks to December 28, including its biggest-ever taking of 35.6 million on day one of its in-store clearance sale on December 27.

The increase contrasts with rival Debenhams, which kicked off the UK retail reporting period on Tuesday with a profit warning after a hoped-for surge in last-minute Christmas shopping failed to materialise despite heavy discounting.

John Lewis's performance is the latest consumer endorsement for the employee-owned group, which has often outperformed competitors in recent years due to its strong online offering, modern stores and more affluent customer base.

The company also captured shoppers' attention this year with an animated advertising campaign featuring a bear being woken from hibernation by an alarm clock gift, allowing it to appreciate a decorated Christmas tree for the first time.

Group like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of new stores, rose 6.9 per cent.

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