Sales at high street bellwether John Lewis have fallen dramatically, suggesting tough times ahead for the UK's high streets.
In a statement released to staff this morning the organisation confirmed sales had fallen by 8.3 per cent in the week to June 26th when compared with the same period of last year totaling £53 million.
"Taking a full week's perspective, there is no doubt that trade in our shops proved challenging when compared to exceptional results last year," said Phil Hullah, commercial director at John Lewis.
"Overall, Scotland and the north of England fared best, while our out-of-town shops faced the most difficult conditions."
The news is all the more concerning given the week saw John Lewis start its clearance sale a period expected to boost sales.
However, good weather and a full sporting calendar with the start of the Wimbledon tennis championships and England cricket internationals against New Zealand are also thought to have dulled sales.
"Last year's first day (an all-time record) was always going to be difficult to assail, but not only did the division deliver a huge sterling result, we also recorded more than 20 per cent growth versus our opening day two years ago," Mr Hullah added.
John Lewis has 26 department stores across the country.
"The John Lewis and Marks & Spencer sales data reinforce our belief that the prospects for consumer spending over the coming months are pretty bleak," commented Howard Archer, chief economist with analysts Global Insight.
"Disposable income growth is muted, while purchasing power is being squeezed significantly by rising utility bills and elevated food prices, and also by higher mortgage repayments for many householders as a result of the credit crunch."
In contrast, however, sales at the John Lewis partnership supermarket chain Waitrose increased by three per cent.
The 189 supermarkets organisation saw £77.1 million of sales over the week.