RETAILER John Lewis today said department store sales surged 6.3% during a better-than-expected week of trading.
John Lewis said 14 of its branches improved on their performances of 2008, including a 12% rise at Bluewater in Kent and an 8% gain at Glasgow.
The retailer described trading for the week to last Saturday as "excellent" and said the year-on-year gain to £54.8 million was particularly impressive given tough comparisons with trading a year earlier.
Selling operations director Nat Wakeley said: "The weather was a lot milder this year compared to last and the same calendar week a year ago was our strongest in percentage terms in the October trading period, so it looked like a high hurdle to jump."
The bullish report from John Lewis buoyed shares in the retail sector, with Next and B&Q owner Kingfisher among stocks higher in morning trading.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "Given that John Lewis sales are seen as a good bellwether for the state of consumer spending, the latest figures boost hopes that retail sales picked up in September and started October well after losing momentum in August."
The figures from John Lewis showed positive sales growth in all divisions, with fashion up 12.5%, electricals and home technology up 2.8%, and the home category ahead 2.9%.
Waitrose, the supermarket business of the John Lewis Partnership, maintained its recent strong performance with sales growth of 12.9% to £84.5 million.