Consistently strong trading throughout last year saw sales at the John Lewis Partnership increase by 11% to £6.4 billion, but online sales surge 64%.

The full year results announced yesterday ending 27 January 2006 built on its positive Christmas trading statement to post a pre-tax profit of £319 million on £614m extra sales, up 27% on the previous year.

This good performance was nothing unexpected, according to Andy Morris, managing consultant at Egremont Group. Although online sales at John Lewis Direct are up, he said they still remain a small proportion of total sales, and continued efforts are required to realise the full potential of a strong multichannel offering.

“John Lewis’s results are indicative of its sound offer. It did well to anticipate the need for a more substantial online offering some time ago. Acquiring buy.com has enabled it to develop its presence quickly and take advantage of all the development work the pureplay company had done. The increase in online sales is comparable to M&S, which saw a 70% increase in the last year after improvements in its offering,” said Morris.

“However, while £185m in turnover online is good, the figure represents just 6% of total John Lewis sales, and 2.8% of total group sales. There is clearly still work to be done to realise the full potential of its multi-channel offering.”

He added that John Lewis has made some good decisions so far. By not offering the full John Lewis range online, it can choose which areas it competes in. Some industry watchers have observed that, unlike other ‘clicks and bricks’ retailers, especially in the electrical sector, being selective means John Lewis can avoid exposing its full range to price competition.

Morris said: “The seamless experience that John Lewis has created across all its retail channels is another great strength. It is able to make the most of its strong brand across its catalogue, stores and website.

“In the coming year, John Lewis will need to make strategic decisions on how to extend its range online, as well as developing initiatives such as in-store pickup and the use of in-store kiosks that will appeal to its multi-channel customers.”