John Lewis sales boosted by sun, mum and iPads

LONDON- Britain's biggest department store chain John Lewis said last week's volume of trade was a March record as sunny weather, an earlier fall of Mother's Day and the launch of the new iPad encouraged shoppers to part with their cash.

John Lewis
John Lewis on Oxford Street, London

The employee-owned retailer said on Friday its sales jumped 20.9 percent year-on-year to 63.1 million pounds ($99.8 million) in the week to March 17.

"There was a definite sense of spring in the air last week, with some much milder weather in many parts of the country and sunshine tempting customers to spend," said buying director Paula Nickolds.

"The week also saw the build-up for Mother's Day (March 18)."

John Lewis highlighted sales growth of 53 percent in its electricals and home technology division, reflecting the launch of Apple's new iPad.

The firm has been outperforming the wider retail market as its more affluent customers have been less impacted by the economic downturn.

"The robust John Lewis sales for the past couple of weeks boost hopes that consumers are perking up having apparently taken a breather in February after decent discount-fuelled spending over December and early January," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.

Many UK retailers are still struggling as consumers grapple with inflation, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and worry about job security and a stagnant housing market.

On Thursday two of Britain's biggest retailers, DIY group Kingfisher and fashion chain Next, said conditions for consumers were likely to slowly improve this year, though official data showed UK retail sales fell in February.

Separately on Friday a report said British consumer morale eased last month from January's five-month high as shoppers grew more worried about their jobs.

John Lewis also owns upmarket grocery chain Waitrose. Here week to March 17 sales rose 12 percent to 108.9 million pounds.

Reporting by James Davey; editing by Paul Sandle

© Thomson Reuters 2014 All rights reserved.