November 20, 2018 / 1:40 PM / a month ago

UK's John Lewis sales dive for second straight week

Branding and signage is seen at the John Lewis and Partners retail store in Oxford Street, London, Britain, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Sales at John Lewis, Britain’s largest department store group, have fallen sharply for a second consecutive week, adding to evidence of a slowdown in UK consumer spending.

The employee-owned group said on Tuesday its total sales fell 6.8 percent in the week to Nov. 17 year-on-year with homewares particularly weak at down 14.7 percent.

“Early in the week sales continued to be impacted by the mild weather, but they increased significantly at the end of the week as a result of us launching our Christmas advert on Thursday, and a big increase in Black Friday deals on Friday and Saturday, which we price matched,” John Lewis said.

The group’s total sales had fallen 8.3 percent in the previous week.

Shares in struggling rival Debenhams (DEB.L) were down 10 percent at 1216 GMT.

British retail sales overall rose at the slowest pace in six months in October, official data showed last week, while companies, including Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) and B&M (BMEB.L) have cautioned on the outlook for grocery, general merchandise and clothing.

Also on Tuesday online electricals retailer AO World (AO.L) reported slower sales growth, blaming a declining market for domestic appliances such as fridges and washing machines. Its shares were down 8 percent.

Britain’s retailers are hoping discounts tied to Black Friday, which falls on Nov. 23, will get shoppers spending again after a disastrous year for the sector.

A string of UK store groups have gone out of business or announced shop closures in 2018 as they struggled with subdued consumer spending, rising labor costs, higher business property taxes, growing online competition and uncertainty over Brexit.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle

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