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John Lewis reports ‘brisk’ trade online and off in 150th anniversary week

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John Lewis opened his first drapers’ shop on May 2 1864. A century and a half on, the multichannel retailer that still bears his name is in fine form, turning over £74.9m in the week of its 150th anniversary.

It’s testament to how much department store group John Lewis has changed over that time, that was one of the fastest growing parts of the business in anniversary week, with online growth up by 32.3% in the week to May 3.

Overall, sales grew by 14.5% in the anniversary week, despite disruption as a result of London’s tube strike during the week.

“It was very fitting to mark our 150th anniversary with a wonderful week’s trade: 14.5% growth on last year was the icing on the cake to a very special week, with brisk trade coming from both shops and online,” said Simon Russell, director of retail development at John Lewis. “

Russell said good traffic and strong conversion were key to its online growth. “Click and collect was again the fulfillment method of choice for customers,” he said, “with solid growth from John Lewis and particularly Waitrose, where volumes almost doubled on the previous year.”

The webstore was only overtaken by sales at John Lewis’ newly refurbished High Wycombe store, which grew by 39.7%.

Across the business, sales grew by 14.5% in the week to May 3, despite disruption from London’s tube strike during the week.

Russell said 150th anniversary merchandise had sold well, both in its fashion and home divisions. Meanwhile, anniversary celebrations, “were very well received,” Russell added, with the opening of John Lewis’ Oxford Street store roof as a garden “an instant hit” and an exhibition that features a recreation of John Lewis’ original drapers store “a must see”.

Fashion sales rose by 7.5% in the week, and home sales by 11.0, but the fastest growth came in electricals and home technology.

Meanwhile sales at sister company Waitrose grew by 6.4% during the week, with online sales up by 50.8%, taking online sales growth in the 14 weeks of the current financial year to 59.4%.

Our view: John Lewis’ 150th anniversary week figures are a clear demonstration that age is no barrier in online selling. Despite its venerable status as a long-standing British business, John Lewis has been quick to adapt to the demands of selling in a multichannel age. Others can learn from that fact, which well demonstrates that what’s required for successful multichannel selling is not exclusive to younger organisations. Instead, a willingness to embrace new technology as customers change the way they shop is key.

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