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Festive takings boosted by sales on move

MORE shoppers than ever used mobile phones and tablet devices to hunt for gifts and bargains in the run up to Christmas.

Department store John Lewis said that for the first time more than three quarters of its online traffic came from people on the move, leading it to declare 2013 the UK's first "mobile Christmas".

The high street chain delivered an early snapshot of the retail sector's performance yesterday when it reported rising profits in the five weeks ending on December 28.

Total sales for the period were £734 million, including a 1.2% boost for shops and a 22.6% rise in online takings compared with 2012.

The trading period also saw the biggest ever day for online orders on November 29, while the final pre-Christmas week, ending on December 21, broke the £160m barrier for the first time.

And shoppers were keen to return after Christmas was over with record takings of £35.6m recorded on the first day of clearance sales in branches on December 27.

Managing director Andy Street said sales over the five weeks had taken a different shape to previous years, with an early peak and a "huge surge" in the last 10 days.

"Many of the big online shopping days and weeks occurred earlier in the period but shops were packed in the last-minute rush on 'manic Monday' when we saw our city centre shops record peak days," he said.

"Must-have" items included tablets, Christmas lights and coffee machines. Mr Street said the store's animated festive TV advert had been viewed more than 11.5m times on YouTube.

Sales at John Lewis, which publishes weekly trading figures, are seen as a useful insight into spending patterns -though its customers are viewed as less likely to be affected by the squeeze in income than average shoppers.

Christmas was a critical period for many retailers, representing a make-or-break chance to restore their fortunes at the end of a difficult 2013.

On Tuesday Debenhams issued a profit warning after a late festive rush failed to materialise.

However, research shows that better times may be coming to the high street with the number of retailers going into administration during 2013 falling by 6% compared to the year before. Research from business advisory firm Deloitte found 183 retailers entered administration over the last 12 months compared with 194 in 2012.

However, there was an 11% increase in the number of shops going under in the last three months of the year, indicating that the economic recovery remains fragile.

Lee Manning, restructuring services partner at Deloitte, said: "The high street has undergone a re-balancing, and this is what is being reflected by these figures.

"A year ago we were about to see HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops enter administration, but I would not expect as many high-profile retail casualties this time round."

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