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New iPhones help John Lewis ring up sales rise

Better than expected iPhone sales have boosted trade at John Lewis, amid signs that the British retail sector is picking up again after a slower summer.

John Lewis, seen as as bellwether of the high street, posted a 6.9% year-on-year rise in sales in the week to 26 September, after gains of 6% and 5% in the previous two weeks.

The announcement came in the same week as the latest retail industry survey from the CBI business lobby group, which showed the strongest monthly performance since May.

Despite the warmer weather last week, John Lewis’s new autumn/winter ranges got off to a good start and fashion sales rose by almost 6%, helped by promotions.

Electricals were the star performer, posting a sales rise of 12%, boosted by the Apple launches. Sales of the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, available for pre-order online from last Wednesday night and for purchase on Friday, beat expectations. It was also the first full week of sales of the recently launched Apple watch. Dyson promotions strengthened sales of small electrical goods such as vacuum cleaners.

John Lewis’s new Birmingham store, above the new Grand Central station, had an “amazing first week of sales”, the retailer said. Online sales also continued their good run and were up more than 21%.

Ed Connolly, the group’s fashion and beauty buying director, said: “With Christmas shops opening in all branches this week, and as momentum behind our gifting assortments continues, we have an optimistic outlook for October.”

Howard Archer, the chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “There had been signs that consumers took a bit of a break over the summer, and John Lewis’s own figures had been softer, but September looks like a much more solid month.”

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The John Lewis and CBI data has been published against the backdrop of an improved economic environment for shoppers. A dip in inflation to zero in August and a pick-up in wages have boosted disposable income, while consumer spending is also underpinned by high employment, low interest rates and a strengthening housing market.


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