March 14, 2008 / 9:14 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-John Lewis weekly dept store sales fall 1.4 pct

(Adds detail, background)

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - British retailer John Lewis [JLP.UL] reported a 1.4 percent fall in weekly sales at its department stores on Friday, adding to signs of slowdown in consumer spending.

The employee-owned group, which also owns the upmarket Waitrose supermarket chain, said sales in the week to March 8 were held back by unseasonable weather, sporting events and a drop in business on Sunday because of Mother’s Day.

“The general economic slowdown, particularly that in the housing market, continues to test our home merchandise sales of furniture and floor coverings,” Personnel Director Eric Gregory added in a statement.

Last week, John Lewis reported an 18.7 percent rise in 2007 profit, but warned that trading conditions had got tougher. It had previously described sales in February as “soft”.

Britain’s store groups are struggling as indebted shoppers cut back on spending following a series of interest rate rises in 2006-7 and amid rising fuel bills and a weak housing market.

Home Retail HOME.L, the owner of Argos stores and the Homebase do-it-yourself chain, said on Thursday it was still feeling the affects of the 2006-7 rate rises and that recent rate cuts from the Bank of England were unlikely to revive consumer spending this year.

John Lewis said Waitrose’s weekly sales were up 6.2 percent, giving a rise for the group as a whole of 3.2 percent. (Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by David Holmes)

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