John Lewis said this morning that it has just enjoyed its best week of 2009, thanks partly to sales of its new anti-cellulite underwear. The retailer’s £25 Scala Bio-Fir knickers have apparently been selling like hot cakes, with the initial supply fairly flying off the shelves. With a little help from the nice weather, which boosted footfall, this meant total sales were just 0.4% down on last year’s figure. That may not sound like much of a cause for celebration, but when you consider that it’s been reporting an average weekly slide of nearly 6% for the last three months, it’s a sign that John Lewis – and perhaps the high street as a whole – is heading in the right direction.
We don’t really claim to understand exactly how these magic knickers work (the ‘hot pants that could help you look better in hotpants’, as the Daily Mail inimitably puts it), but apparently they somehow warm up the skin, improving circulation and melting fat cells away. Apparently a month’s wear can lead to a ‘significant reduction’ in cellulite (albeit presumably at the expense of an extremely warm posterior). This might sound like utter nonsense, but shoppers seem to have fallen for it – when the knickers went on sale at the end of last week, they sold out within minutes. Clearly John Lewis misjudged the elastic demand.
But last week’s success wasn’t entirely knicker-driven. Fashion sales were up across the board, with the beauty, jewellery, haberdashery and toy departments all enjoying a good week (the retailer said this was particularly impressive because the weather had been even better in the same week last year). Homeware ranges started to show some signs of life, with ‘double-digit increases’ in cookshop, silverware and stationery sales, while JL even shifted more indoor furniture than at any stage this year. In fact, seven of its stores actually finished up on last year’s total.
So will this be a brief rally, or a prolonged recovery? Well, the good news is that John Lewis' sales tailed off a bit in May and June last year, so the comparatives won’t be as tough in the coming weeks – merchandise director Jill Little talked about ‘a sense of optimism and opportunity’ today. And on a broader level, there do seem to be more signs that confidence is returning to the economy, which should be good news for sales. Besides, as recession-busting products go, anti-cellulite underwear has to be right up there.
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