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Andy Street: 'John Lewis has big ambitions for fashion'

John Lewis’s fashion sales were “particularly pleasing” last year and the retailer has big ambitions for this category in 2016, the chain’s managing director Andy Street said today. 

Andy Street  managing director  John Lewis

Andy Street managing director John Lewis

Fashion outperformed all other categories at John Lewis in the year to January 30, up 6.2% compared to the year before. Sales across John Lewis as a whole rose 2.8% to £4.5bn, while sales at the partnership, which includes Waitrose, were up 0.7%.

Street said the growth in fashion came despite tough market conditions. “We had the same challenges with weather as everyone else but we are particularly pleased with our results, which showed growth across own brand and branded product.”

A “three-pronged approach” of selling “must-have” brands, an improved own brand offer and exclusive collaborations led to a gain in market share for the retailer. The collaboration with British couture designer Bruce Oldfield for autumn 15 performed well, Street added.

“There are more collaborations and own brand launches to come. It is an indication of what’s to come. We are ambitious about fashion and there’s lots of opportunity.”

He added: “Our performance in fashion is driven by our own brands and getting those exclusive launches - you will see more of that going forward as we will continue to secure those must-haves.”

Street said menswear was the best-performing category within fashion last year, driven by John Lewis & Co.

“It’s down to an improvement in our own design credentials. Looking forward we will be strengthening our own brand further. We are also really pleased with our own brand women’s workwear range. We have seen real progress there. It has been better designed, the fits are better.

”We have invested in a number of areas across fashion and it gives us confidence.”

Street said the department store did not lose margin last year, despite price matching in a market increasingly reliant on discounting. 

“Despite Black Friday and our commitment not to be beaten on price we have held our total margin for the year. It’s about the total piece across a long period not just that one day of deep discounts.”

For the year John Lewis’s operating profit slipped 0.1% to £250.2m, while operating margin dropped 0.2% to 6.8%. 

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