HIGH-STREET retailer John Lewis has recruited almost 50 extra staff over the Christmas period in Newcastle as the shop bids to attract festive shoppers.
The national department store, which has an outlet in Newcastle’s Eldon Square shopping centre, says shops are working very hard to drum up business in a year in which many people are being cautious with their money.
John Lewis is among several stores offering deals to get consumers shopping, including its Never Knowingly Undersold price promise.
It employs 644 in Newcastle throughout the year, and has added another 46 for the Christmas period.
John Lewis Newcastle md Barry Blamire said: “There’s a lot of price competitiveness out there at the moment and as other retailers cut their prices, we need to be responsive.
“Customers are clearly being careful with their money and are making careful choices about buying. I see this as an attempt to kick-start Christmas.
“Christmas is a massive opportunity for retailers and everybody is working very hard. Obviously it’s a combination of factors. It was a very mild autumn, but sales of seasonal products have now picked up.
“It’s about these retailers going out to make sure they get their slice of the Christmas market.”
The company has been highlighting its 30 most popular products, with top slot going to Apple’s iPad 2. Blamire said the store had sold a significant number of iPads in the run-up to Christmas, and that the company had also seen rises in its evening sales as a result of business improvement district company NE1’s Alive After Five late opening and free parking initiative.
He said: “Our sales are holding up well in electronics, and while fashion sales were slower over the autumn it’s been counterbalanced by some of the price matching.
“You make your own luck when you’ve got a great product at the right price with great service.”
John Lewis itself announced on Friday that UK total sales were up 7.6% in the week to December 3 compared to last year, while food sales were up 5.7%.
In Newcastle, Barry Blamire said sales last week were up 18% on last year, largely because of the snow that piled on to the city at this time last year.
He said that, in general, sales in Newcastle over the festive period were virtually level with last year, while nationally it was around a percentage point higher. He pointed to a slight decline in in-store sales with double-digit growth online.
“I’m pleased with these figures,” he said. “We’re effectively achieving the same results in a tougher climate.”