Predictions of death of the high street ‘overstated’, says John Lewis

Predictions of the death of the high street have been “overstated”, John Lewis has said, as it announced its proportion of sales being made online has fallen and store visits are up.

The department store chain’s commercial director Kathleen Mitchell said 81% of sales during the height of lockdowns were over the internet, but this had fallen back to 57%, while store customers were up 8% on last year.

Writing in the retailer’s annual How We Shop, Live and Look report, Ms Mitchell said: “People want to come back to shops, especially on Saturdays.

“Evening shopping has been replaced by weekend shopping. Customers are eating, drinking, spending time in our shops and enjoying all that our stores have to offer – customer numbers are up 8% on last year.

“As many families have discovered, it can be quite a good value day out, with a little self restraint!

“A general election and – we hope – an easing of the cost-of-living crisis are likely to dominate the headlines, but on the high street we expect to see our stores become even more compelling destinations.”

The report reveals that, despite the washout summer, handheld fans were John Lewis’s best-selling product of the year, with sales up 481% year on year.

A John Lewis handheld fan. (John Lewis/PA)
A John Lewis handheld fan. (John Lewis/PA)

Other top sellers were men’s boxer shorts, thought to have been adopted by women as outerwear, strapless bras and outdoor sofas.

This year also saw the return of the 90s fragrance, with sales of Angel Mugler, launched in 1992, up 23% while Armani’s Aqua di Gio, released in 1996, was up 29%.

Sales of Barbie products were up 31% off the back of the blockbuster movie, while the retailer sold 86% more pairs of Birkenstock sandals – which also made a fleeting appearance in the film – than last year.

The Barbie House. (John Lewis/PA)
The Barbie House. (John Lewis/PA)

The Stanley Quencher cup launched in May in the UK saw sales jump 272% in the second week, with rose quartz being the best selling colour.

The poor summer saw sales of beach towels fall by 48% and firepits by 35%, while sales of printers fell by 26% as home workers returned to the office.

The lockdown trend of building up a living room drinks corner to make up for not going out fell out of favour, with sales of drinks trolleys down 13% during the year.