November 26, 2012 1:50 pm

Retailers in strong start to Christmas period

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Retailers enjoyed a good start to the festive shopping season, among them John Lewis, which reported its biggest ever pre-Christmas trading day on Saturday.

The employee-run department store reported sales of £109.6m for the week ending Saturday, 11 per cent better than the same week last year, and 20 per cent higher than the previous week. Sales on Saturday were £23.6m, the highest ever outside of Boxing Day sales.

The boost comes after high-street spending dropped sharply last month, raising concerns of a sluggish recovery in household spending.

In London’s West End, where Oxford Street and Regent Street were closed to traffic on Saturday, shoppers ignored wet and windy weather to spend more than £100m.

Footfall was up 1.8 per cent compared with last year, according to New West End Company, which organised the traffic-free day.

Maggie Porteous, head of selling operations at John Lewis, said sales were boosted by price matching items reduced by other outlets in the Black Friday sales.

“It looks as though it’s going to be a tablet Christmas,” Ms Porteous said.

Coffee machines and Christmas items such as stationery and decorations were also popular.

“At the moment we are still in the preparing your home for Christmas stage. I think it’s going to be big all the way through till Christmas now.”

The high street will face plenty of competition this year. Online retail sales will increase 17 per cent this Christmas, according to Deloitte, but overall UK retail sales will increase only 1 per cent.

Deloitte, which issued its Christmas retail predictions on Monday, said £330m of Christmas purchases would be made directly through smartphones, and a further £500m through tablets.

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