John Lewis has reported a jump in sales over the Christmas period, with fashion and beauty recording strong growth.

The UK retailer announced today that total sales increased 9.3% to GBP596m over the five weeks ended 31 December, while like-for-like sales increased 6.2%. Fashion and beauty recorded a 10.3% sales increase over the period.

"Sales during the four weeks to Christmas Eve were outstanding. During that period we broke the record for our biggest week ever with a sterling total of £133.1m for the week ending December 17th. The first week of Clearance saw a very strong start, but against the pre-VAT increase week in 2010, it was always going to be a challenge to match sales, particularly with ‘big ticket' items," said John Lewis managing director Andy Street.

"The strength of our online operation was very much in evidence during this key five week period, confirming our strength as a pre-eminent multi-channel retailer. Sales at broke through the GBP600m milestone during December and our Click and Collect operation, giving customers the flexibility of buying online and collecting from 129 John Lewis and Waitrose branches, continued operating right up to Christmas Eve in John Lewis and saw a 90% increase in usage."

Commenting on the results, Conlumino analyst Neil Saunders said: ""By any measure John Lewis has had a cracking Christmas and is probably the standout winner in terms of trading. With three new stores open for business this festive period, total sales were always bound to grow, however, for like-for-like sales to have risen so strongly is impressive, especially when the general trend for the business up until November was generally negative.
"That John Lewis has seen good growth is testament to its focus on customer service, its compelling and often unique offer and its marketing efforts. However, it's guarantee of price matching high street competitors has also gone down well in an environment where extensive discounting was the order of the day."

However, Saunders highlighted concerns about margins, saying that while John Lewis will have had a profitable Christmas, "margins are likely to have been eroded by price matching and this will result in lower profitability for the full year and a reduced bonus pool for Partners."