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John Lewis fashion sales drop 8.8% despite occasionwear surge

A surge in sales of fascinators and occasionwear boosted by the “Kate effect” provided a bright spot for John Lewis in the week to Saturday April 30, when total fashion sales dropped 8.8%.

John Lewis said that the bank holidays resulted in a fall off in footfall at the department store chain and that while trade was “decent” on some days in the mid week, holiday store closures meant that total sales at the department store dropped 9.2% to £48.72. All stores open more than a year recorded negative sales even with the benefit of higher VAT.

The department store added that the Easter weekend had a positive effect on fashion sales early on in the week and outdoor ranges also did well, as the rain stayed away.

John Lewis said it was unsure whether a 53% uplift in occasionwear sales could be directly attributed to royal wedding guests coming to them for their outfits but that it undoubtedly beneffited from the “Kate effect”. Bridesmaid dresses also benefitted from royal wedding fever.

Kidswear was “the star of the week” according to John Lewis, with sales of kid’s footwear strong as parents bought back-to-school summer styles.

Sales at johnlewis.com were up 18.3%, below the run rate for the year so far of 27%.

Head of multi-channel content Helen Keppel-Compton said that this week “the weather is set to be kind and we can look forward to getting back to normal”.

Arden Partners analyst Nick Bubb said: “John Lewis struggled last week against a tough comp, the unhelpfully fine weather and the distractions of the royal wedding … The booming online business was up by 18% gross, which meant that many of the branches were as much as 20% down last week, with the out of town mall store at Cribbs Causeway down 20% and Bluewater down 13%.

“Last week’s dip left the outcome for the first quarter as a whole down about 2% LFL, excluding VAT (despite 27% online growth), which is no better than the pre-Easter run-rate, so April was a bit disappointing in the end, although hot weather and lots of Bank Holidays usually work against John Lewis.”

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