Sep 24, 2019
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Warm weather dents John Lewis fashion sales again

Sep 24, 2019

John Lewis just can't seem to catch a break at the moment. While the John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose supermarket chain seems to be holding its own, the signature department store chain is struggling in the face of a weak interiors department and the wrong kind of weather for seasonal fashion.

John Lewis

The company said on Tuesday that the parent firm saw its sales falling 5.6% in the week ended September 21 to hit £202.23 million.

That drop was mainly driven by the department store operation, which reported that its total sales were down 12.4% year-on-year and it directly blamed the un-autumnal temperatures. “Warmer weather impacted sales of new season products,” it said.

While fashion has been a shining light at the chain for some time, in this seven-day period it dropped an unprecedented 12.3%. That must have been a disappointment for a company that has invested so heavily in its fashion offer and that has seen plenty of very encouraging results, especially due to the large number of own-brand products it now sells.

There was slightly better news on the beauty front, but the fact that sales in this category rose 0.7% was less encouraging given that the increase was caused by the company price-matching a competitor’s promotion. While that kind of price-matching activity encourages footfall and helps to shift products, it doesn't do much for the bottom-line as it undermines profit margins.

And fashion wasn't the worst performer during the week as Home department sales fell as much as 13.4%, even though own-brand ranges did well. 

The bigger concern of course, is that this kind of trading pattern is being repeated across the retail sector and especially in fashion. The fashion sector has faced several years in which unseasonal weather has severely dented sales and given the economic uncertainty at the moment, it can ill afford 2019 to be another year like that.

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