UPDATE 1-John Lewis's weekly sales dip on year-ago differences

Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:11am EDT

By Sarah Young

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - Sales at Britain's biggest department store group John Lewis, eased 0.3 percent last week on the same week a year ago, blaming the dip on special factors such as Mothers' Day falling a week earlier this year and the launch by Apple of a new iPad last year.

The employee-owned group, which has been outperforming the broader retail sector for over a year, said on Friday its department store sales totalled 62.86 million pounds ($95 million) in the week to March 16.

The group's electrical and home technology department, the part which sells iPads, posted year-on-year sales growth of 2.6 percent in the week, compared with a gain of 53 percent in the same week last year.

"Fashion had the toughest trading at 6 per cent lower, with Mother's Day and price matching activity in our last year's figures combining with poor weather this year particularly impacting Womenswear," John Lewis's Buying and Brand Director Peter Ruis said in a statement.

Although the group cautioned earlier this month that sales were likely to rise more slowly this year than last, they were still up by around 13.2 percent year-on-year in the seven weeks trading to March 16.

"Not too much should be read into one week's performance, especially given that there were significant mitigating factors and it should also be borne in mind that John Lewis's overall performance over the seven weeks trading to 16 March remains very decent," IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said.

John Lewis's recent strength was reflected across the High Street with data on Thursday showing a 2.1 percent jump in retail sales volumes in February - the biggest rise since March last year and much more than economists forecast.

Unlike John Lewis, however, several retailers have made weak starts to the year.

Rival department store operator Debenhams issued a profit warning earlier this month and Next, Britain's second-biggest clothing retailer, said on Thursday that trading since the start of February was quiet.