REFILE-UK department store John Lewis forecasts record Christmas sales

Thu Nov 8, 2012 8:11pm EST

* Firm says has "momentum" going into Christmas

* Expects "mid to high single figure" Christmas sales growth

* Says UK consumer is "very stretched"

By James Davey

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - John Lewis, Britain's biggest department store group, has forecast it will post another record sales performance this Christmas, outperforming the wider market.

"We do feel that we have that magical word momentum with us as we go into Christmas," said Managing Director Andy Street at a media dinner on Thursday.

"The last three Christmases have been outstanding for us and we are expecting to better those numbers," he said.

Street said the employee-owned firm was not expecting sales growth to keep going at the year-to-date rate of 12.9 percent.

He said "a mid to high single figure number" for Christmas was a realistic expectation given that British consumers remained "very stretched".

John Lewis has been outperforming rivals and the wider market because its generally more affluent customers have been less impacted by Britain's economic downturn, while improvements to products, service and its Internet offer as well as new modern stores have resonated with consumers.

Though the UK is out of recession, many retailers are still struggling as consumers are deterred by inflation, meagre wage increases and government measures designed to cut national debt. Last week electricals retailer Comet collapsed into administration, threatening 6,600 jobs.

On Tuesday an industry survey said British retail sales slowed sharply in October, while bellwether British retailer Marks & Spencer posted a 3 percent fall in first half profit.

On Thursday Britain's No. 4 grocer Wm Morrison said a survey of families it conducted found one-third planned to cut back spending on Christmas presents this year.