Department store chain John Lewis has said that reports that the traditional UK high street is dying have been "overstated" as it announced that online sales have fallen and in-store sales have increased.
Kathleen Mitchell, commercial director of the store, said that while online sales reached a high of 81% during the height of the Covid lockdown, this has reduced back down to 57%. In-store sales for John Lewis were also up 8% on 2022.
Ms Mitchell spoke about customer's desire to shop in brick and mortar stores, despite the significant uptick in the popularity of online shopping in recent years.
Writing in the department store chain's annual How We Shop, Live and Look report, she 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“Evening shopping has been replaced by weekend shopping.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.”
It comes amid the high profile closure of well-known brands such as Wilko, leaving units unoccupied in prime locations across the UK. According to the British Retail Consortium, six thousand shops have closed down in the UK in the past five years, with many businesses crediting issues such as rising business rates, soaring rent and the impact of the pandemic.
Also included in the John Lewis annual report was an insight into consumer shopping habits. The chain's best-selling product of the year were hand-held fans, with sales up 481% year-on-year.
Also rising in popularity was Barbie products, coinciding with the release of the Hollywood blockbuster of the same name, with sales up 31%. The Margot Robbie-led film became a cultural phenomenon, with fans running to stores to grab as many Barbie or pink products they could.
The return of 90s fragrance was also popular with consumers. Angel Mugler, launched in 1992, enjoyed a boost of 23% year-on-year, while Armani’s Aqua di Gio, released in 1996, was up 29%