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Fashion sales boost John Lewis performance

Fashion sales at department store group John Lewis rose 4.6% in 2007, with strong performances from both branded and own-label products.

Operating profits (excluding property profits) climbed 12% to £189.9 million for the year ended January 26, which helped to generate a 20% salary bonus for John Lewis partners, the equivalent of 10 weeks' pay.

Sales at the department store rose 5.6% to £2.8 billion over the year, with like-for-like sales ahead 5%. Market share rose 0.5% to 19.3% (see

John Lewis managing director Andy Street attributed the growth to "directional" product, investment into stores and becoming a multi-channel business. "Over the past three months we've introduced Whistles, Reiss and Diesel, which have helped to keep us at the cutting edge of fashion," he said. "But our own-brand now accounts for 31% of sales, giving us great confidence."

John Lewis Direct sales grew 44.6%, with 31,000 products now available online. Despite a slowdown in growth - last year online sales grew by 60% - Street said: "A slowdown from 60% isn't bad and we're still expecting to outperform the rest of the market as our online business matures."

The department store currently has no plans to follow other retailers including Marks & Spencer in charging customers for plastic bags, but will launch a bag for life in two weeks' time. Street said: "We'd rather reduce the number of bags we provide than charge for them."

Street said that the new Cambridge store, which opened last year, was the "highlight" of 2007, with sales exceeding expectations and recording an 80% increase in December and January compared with the Robert Sayle store, John Lewis' temporary shop in the city.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield added: "More than 50% of our target customers are still not close enough to a John Lewis store, so expansion will underpin our growth. We're investing tens of millions of pounds in infrastructure to support a larger business."

The department store is set to open two further new-look stores, in Liverpool on May 29 and Leicester on September 4.

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