John Lewis sales of travel accessories down 83% during pandemic

Millions of people had to scrap plans for holidays, family reunions and overseas business trips during lockdowns

Passport covers and travel adaptors accounted for the sharpest plunge in sales for John Lewis over the last year, as millions of people were forced to scrap plans for holidays and other overseas travel due amid coronavirus restrictions.

In its annual report identifying key shopping trends, the British retailer also reported a steep fall in demand for neck ties, briefcases and make-up bags.

The department store said there was an 83 per cent drop in the number of protective passport cases being sold and a 74 per cent fall in sales of travel adaptors.

Pippa Wicks, the retail group’s executive director, said the Covid-19 pandemic had “left a permanent mark on how we shop”.

John Lewis, which like other non-essential services was forced to close its branches for months on end during the lockdowns, said online sales of home items increased rapidly.

In March, the employee-owned group, which also includes food retailer Waitrose, announced it was closing some of its outlets and ending its annual staff bonus scheme, which it had operated for 67 years.

The retailer said it would invest in its remaining stores as it recovers from the coronavirus crisis.

In its report, it recorded a 75 per cent fall in neck tie sales, as millions of workers shunned suits in favour of comfortable attire as they worked from home. Briefcase sales were down 22 per cent and desire for make-up bags halved.

John Lewis also said it would no longer sell filing cabinets amid a lack of demand.

Items which sold particularly well include tents, with sales up 600 per cent, trampolines, up 270 per cent, slippers, up 13 per cent, and casual Croc shoes, up 58 per cent.

Shoppers also stocked up their kitchens while restaurants and bars were closed.

Air fryers were up 400 per cent and pasta machines and accessories shot up by 42 per cent. Sales of big TVs increased by 42 per cent and hot tub sales rose 200 per cent.

Overall, with stores shut, John Lewis reported rising figures for its online business, to account for between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of all sales, up from 40 per cent before Covid rolled in.

Looking ahead, the company predicts some online socialising will continue, despite pubs and restaurants opening again. It also expects goods that solely exist in the digital world to continue to be popular with shoppers, as well as nostalgic tech items.

“The unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021 have left a permanent mark on how we shop, live and look,” said Ms Wicks.

“People have become clearer about what matters to them and their work-life balance has shifted towards life.”

Updated: October 12th 2021, 2:11 PM