Fashion sales were up 3.8% for John Lewis last year

Fashion sales were up 3.8% for John Lewis last year

UK department store group John Lewis saw growth in fashion sales in its last fiscal year thanks to investment in its brands and supply chain capabilities.

Fashion sales were up 3.8% in the 12 months ended 28 January, boosted by the group's first own-brand luxury label, Modern Rarity, which pushed own-brand womenswear sales up 6.8%. John Lewis was also the first high street retailer to stock online brands Hush and Finery.

In its last year the retailer completed investment in two new distribution centres at Magna Park in Milton Keynes, allowing it to combine fashion and non-fashion deliveries to deepen efficiencies and deliver orders to our customers in fewer parcels. Towards the end of 2016 it also began limited trials of robotic process automation. John Lewis says it expects to see these develop into a "significant" productivity initiative during 2017.

The company has also put "significant" effort behind tracing key raw materials back to source, and reducing its operational environmental footprint.

Operating profit at John Lewis's namesake business, however, was down 7.5% to GBP231.4m (US$281.2m), held back by investment in its supply chain. Revenue was up 2.7% to GBP4.74bn, with like-for-like sales up 2.7%. 

For the John Lewis Partnership, which includes the company's Waitrose supermarket chain, profit before partnership bonus, tax and exceptional items was up 21.2% to GBP370.4m, while revenues were up 3.2% to GBP11.37bn.

Despite the growth, the retailer issued a caution for the year ahead. "Trading pressures will continue as a result of the wider changes taking place in retail. The two major influences are pricing, where the rate of change in selling prices is likely to be significantly slower than the rate of change in input costs as a result of weakness in the sterling exchange rate, and the continued shift from shops to online. These factors are significant for the outlook where we expect both inflationary cost pressures and competition to intensify in the market as a whole."

Last month, John Lewis revealed it is reviewing more than 700 jobs as part of plans to restructure some of its in-store business.

John Lewis puts over 700 jobs under review