JOHN Lewis enjoyed a 3.6 per cent uplift in gross sales over the festive period while department store rival House of Fraser saw in-store sales decline by 2.9 per cent and online sales fall by 7.5 per cent.

Gross sales at John Lewis rose from £998.1 million over Christmas 2016 to £1 billion for the six weeks ended December 30.

House of Fraser, whose six weeks ended on December 23, did not reveal sales figures but said that in the final four weeks of the period its online business recorded a profit of £6.1m.

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Management at both retailers were relatively downbeat about the results, with House of Fraser chief executive Alex Williamson saying his firm is “in transition”.

“Our focus is on driving profitability rather than chasing revenue at any cost,” he said.

John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield, meanwhile, noted that the company’s full-year results were likely to be muted.

“The pressure on margin seen in the first half of the year has intensified because of our choice to maintain competitive prices, despite higher costs mainly due to the exchange rate,” he said.

“This will negatively affect full-year financial results as indicated previously.”

John Lewis, which alongside Waitrose is part of the wider John Lewis Partnership, is owned by its 84,000 staff members.

Sales at Waitrose were also up during the six-week period, although at 1.4 per cent the rate of growth was slower than the 4.8 per cent it posted during the festive period in 2016.

Overall gross sales at John Lewis partnership were up by 2.5 per cent during the period to £1.96bn.

House of Fraser is owned by Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group, which last week sought rent reductions from landlords across the UK.