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Wet weather hits store sales but looks likely to boost online trading

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After weeks of rain and flooding, persistent bad weather is having a marked effect on the way consumers are shopping.

Stores in flood-hit areas, such as this electrical store in Oxford, are threatened with closure. But retailers are seeing an effect that goes beyond such closures. It’s being seen in what shoppers are buying – and in how they’re buying those things. The move to buy online has gathered pace, with and both reporting strong ecommerce growth in recent weeks.

John Lewis today said sales in 27 of its 40 stores were down in the week to February 8, compared to the same week last year.

Particularly strong falls in sales came in its Ipswich (-12.6%) and Cardiff (-10.3%) stores, although High Wycombe (+22.1%) and Chichester (+21.5%) both bucked the trend.

It was a week, said David Barford, director of selling, London and South, that had brought challenges in the form of bad weather and London’s tube strike.

Online, however, sales were up by 17.7%, helping the company to post a 3.3% sales rise in the week.

The Telegraph reports particularly strong rises in John Lewis’ rain accessories (+65%), Debenhams’ wellies (+252%), and Argos’ umbrella sales, which have doubled since December. “It’s been so damn depressing that I think people have been uplifting themselves with a bit of shopping, mainly through online because they have not been getting out and about,” Amanda Scott, head of buying for women’s accessories at John Lewis, told the newspaper.

At Waitrose , comfort food was on the menu, with sales of frozen chips up by 29%, fishfingers up by 11% and fish cakes by 26%. “With the gloomy weather continuing across the country many people are choosing warming and comforting options,” said Tom Athron, finance director at Waitrose.

Here too, online growth of 87% drove total sales growth, with sales up by 5.8% in the week to February 8, compared with the same time last year.

The Range said it had seen a doubling in sales of wellies, while demand for dinghies is so high “summer shipments have had to be brought forward”.

Retailers are also involved in the relief effort. Asda staff have helped to deliver food parcels, clothing and have helped fill sandbags in affected areas. The supermarket is also donating up to £400,000 to communities affected by the floods.

Andy Clarke, Asda chief executive, said: “The least we can do is to try and help those worst hit by the adverse weather conditions. Our stores will be working directly with their local communities to identify who needs our support, it’s hugely important to everyone at Asda that we are able to give something back to the communities when they need it the most.”

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