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Fashion and online drive strong first half for John Lewis

John Lewis said operating profits soared 76.8% to £35.9m in the first half to July 31, driven by a strong performance from fashion and johnlewis.com.

John Lewis said gross sales at the department store chain were up 14.5% to £1.4bn and like-for-like sales rose 12.3%. Sales at www.johnlewis.com grew 36.1%.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield said: “John Lewis traded well ahead of expectations, with johnlewis.com growing at twice the market rate and excellent growth in fashion.”

After six weeks of the second half of the year, John Lewis’ gross sales are 11.7% higher than last year, or 8.8% on a like-for-like basis.

Fashion sales up 19.3%

First-half sales of fashion at John Lewis, which has been driving its fashion credentials with new womenswear concepts, its online fashion site and strong marketing campaigns, rose 19.3%. Fashion was the strongest performing directorate in the business and the performance was helped by the introduction of a raft of new brands to the retailer over the year.

John Lewis has also launched its Never Knowingly Undersold price matching policy online.

The John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership, which also includes grocer Waitrose, reported pre-tax profits were up 28% to £110.5m for the first half.

John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield said the performance reflected the decisions the retailer took during the recession to “invest in existing shops, in new formats, in multi-channel and in value and we are now seeing the benefits coming through.

Outlook ‘challenging’

Mayfield added: “For the remainder of this year and into 2011, we anticipate more challenging trading conditions as higher taxes and public spending cuts begin to bite and household disposable incomes come under pressure.

“However, the Partnership’s ownership model enables us to focus on the long term and we will continue to move ahead with our plans. Despite the economic headwinds, and tougher comparables in the second half, we remain confident that both Waitrose and John Lewis will continue to grow ahead of the market.”

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