Online drives bulk of John Lewis' Christmas sales but Waitrose disappoints

The John Lewis Partnership today (6 January) reported a 4.1 per cent rise in sales over Christmas to £1.8bn, driven largely by online orders as fewer shoppers came through its doors.

A 21.4 per cent boost in online orders helped offset the 1.2 per cent decline in sales from John Lewis' high street shops. Overall online orders made up 40 per cent of total sales for the brand, which rose 5.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayflied said this year he saw “patterns of trade shift significantly” as festive shopper spend peaked at three distinct points: Black Friday weekend in late November, the days leading up to Christmas, and the subsequent clearance sales.

On Christmas Day alone, the retailer claimed that it saw 10.7 per cent spike in online orders.

"Our performance reflects to a large extent the significant investment we have made in our distribution and IT capability. Despite the fact trade was even more concentrated across a number of very busy shopping days, our operations performed especially well," he said.

However, the "challenging" grocery sector proved problematic for Waitrose, which has generally bucked the declining marketshare its fellow grocers have seen during the course of the year. It saw a 1.4 per cent fall in like-for-like sales during the six weeks to January 2. However, overall sales were up 1.2 per cent compared to last year to £859.8m.

The grocer, which has held onto its market share in the past year as other supermarkets flagged, saw the Christmas rush come later than usual this year, with record trading reached on December 23 and 24.

“Waitrose had record trading days leading up to Christmas and good growth online, while like-for-like sales declined overall during the six-week period,” said Mayfield.

The figures follow the success of the retailer’s annual Christmas campaign, which this year saw it tie up with Age UK for a campaign titled ‘Man on the Moon’.

Jacques de Cock, faculty member of the London School of Marketing the retailer has build strong reputation, consumers trust the brand and it is seen as the ‘go to’ quality value store by the British middle classes.

"“The hugely successful ‘Man in the Moon’ ad has contributed to its Christmas success. It’s had 23 million views on YouTube alone. The airing of the John Lewis Christmas ad has become a big event in the run up to Christmas," he said.

"“John Lewis also shows that the partnership model [whereby employees "own" the company and receive a payout which reflects its financial performance] can create a highly competitive company with dedicated staff who are great ambassadors for the brand.”"

The brand's performance is in contrast to that of Next, which yesterday posted a 0.5 per cent fall in sales across its 500 high street stores as its CEO cited the increasing competitiveness of the online environment is having on its business.

Meanwhile, John Lewis' main rival Marks and Spencer is expected to report a fall of more than five per cent in sales of its clothing later this week (7 January).

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Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is deputy news editor at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in the retail and FMCG sectors. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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