Credit: Karen Roe/Flickr

John Lewis's Christmas sales were dramatically lifted by Black Friday

The department store took more cash in late November than the week including Christmas and boxing day.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 23 Nov 2015

Now the manic Christmas period is over, it's time for retailers to look back, take stock and reflect on whether they've made a decent job of it. This year MT expects that many will find a pattern not seen before, as John Lewis discovered.

Buoyed by its ubiquitous Monty the Penguin adverts John Lewis enjoyed a bumper Christmas period overall, with sales in the five weeks to December 27th up 5.8% on last year to £777m. Yet in the week of Christmas itself, typically the biggest of the year, itself things weren't so rosy – sales actually declined by 1.4%.

In fact, sales peaked in late November thanks to the US-exported consumer orgy that is Black Friday. This helped create John Lewis's best trading week ever, with up 21.8% on the previous year, largely thanks to sales of ipads, as well as more conventionally John Lewis goods like handbags, Nespresso machines and cashmere.

‘This year confirmed the new shape of trade for Christmas, with an early peak at the end of November driven by Black Friday and last minute gift buying,' said John Lewis MD and MT's Britain's Most Admired Leader, Andy Street. The knock-on effect of this on Christmas sales was widely predicted by naysayers who said Black Friday would bring forward spending that would otherwise have occurred anyway.

Today Street warned that a focusing of Christmas spending during that week could be detrimental to the industry as it put pressure on fulfilment and hit profits. 'We've got to ask if it's right to concentrate trade so much in that one period,' he told the BBC. 'My personal hope is that this is the high water mark for Black Friday. I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle but do we need to stoke that fire anymore? I personally hope not.'

Credit: John Lewis

In the case of John Lewis this doesn't seem to have been a big problem – 5.8% growth over the whole period (4.8% like-for-like) seems pretty solid. But as more Christmas results from retailers trickle in over the next couple of months, MT expects some will have been less able to adapt to this changing pattern.  

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

The CEO's guide to switching off

Too much hard work is counterproductive. Here four leaders share how they ease the pressure....

What Lego robots can teach us about motivating teams

People crave meaningful work, yet managers can so easily make it all seem futile.

What went wrong at Debenhams?

There are lessons in the high street store's sorry story.

How to find the right mentor or executive coach

One minute briefing: McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy.

What you don't want to copy from Silicon Valley

Workplace Evolution podcast: Twitter's former EMEA chief Bruce Daisley on Saturday emails, biased recruitment and...

Research: How the most effective CEOs spend their time

Do you prefer the big, cross-functional meeting or the one-to-one catch-up?