LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - British retailer John Lewis [JLP.UL] reported its second consecutive weekly drop in department store sales on Thursday, adding to signs that UK consumers are starting to rein in their spending.
The employee-owned group, which also owns the upmarket Waitrose supermarket chain, said wet weather and gale force winds had put off department store shoppers, with home and furniture sales continuing to be hit hardest by the general downturn in consumer confidence.
“Business in home-related categories clearly remains very challenging across the marketplace,” said Commercial Director Phil Hullah.
“Looking ahead from here, market conditions are clearly difficult and Easter week looks likely to be another stretching one,” he added.
Britain’s store groups are struggling as indebted shoppers cut spending following a series of interest rate rises in 2006 and 2007 and amid rising fuel and food bills and a weak housing market.
John Lewis said Waitrose’s weekly sales were up 6.2 percent, giving a rise for the group as a whole of 3.3 percent. (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by David Holmes)