March 28, 2008 / 8:00 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-John Lewis weekly dept store sales up 6.4 pct

(Adds detail, background)

LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - British retailer John Lewis [JLP.UL] on Friday reported a 6.4 percent rise in weekly sales at its department stores compared with the year-ago period, bouncing back from two weeks of declines.

The employee-owned group, which also runs upmarket Waitrose supermarkets, said sales for the week ended March 22 were even stronger when compared with the week that included the Easter holiday last year.

On this basis, sales were up 7 percent, with Good Friday up 29 percent, Saturday up 17 percent and Easter Monday up 33 percent.

“So, all in all, a cracking week which has lifted March’s overall sales performance to beat that which we saw in February,” John Lewis said in a statement.

“This week, of course, has started with most branches being closed on Sunday, but Monday has certainly got us off to a good start and it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks pan out with the different falls of school holidays, both year-on-year and around the country, not to mention the highly seasonal weather.” John Lewis’s weekly sales figures are closely watched as an indicator of broader trends on Britain’s shopping malls, although the group caters primarily for more affluent shoppers.

Britain’s store groups are struggling as indebted consumers rein in spending amid rising mortgage rates and energy bills and a cooler housing market.

A survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed on Thursday that retail sales steadied in March, but that store groups expect them to fall in future.

John Lewis said sales at its Waitrose stores leapt 27.6 percent in the week to March 22, taking the total rise for the group to 19.2 percent over the same period last year. (Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by David Cowell)

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