Shoppers at John Lewis in Oxford Street
Christmas sales at John Lewis saw a 9.3 percent surge, although the picture of profits is less clear

John Lewis department stores made £596 million in total sales over the Christmas period, a 9.3 percent increase on 2010 and a contrast to Next's "disappointing" sales.

Defying the gloom on Britain's high streets, over the five weeks leading to December 31 John Lewis achieved its biggest week ever, with sales totalling £133.1 million for the week ending December 17.

While the week ending December 31 saw a 4.8 percent drop on 2010 to £103 million, the company claimed it could not compete with last year's rush of shopping before the January VAT increase.

Next saw the darker side of consumer austerity, reporting a 2.7 percent drop in sales between August and Christmas Eve from its 520 stores.

The online Next Directory performed well, however, reporting 16.9 percent between August 1 and December 24.

Cementing predictions that more customers would be shopping from home rather than braving the high street crowds, John Lewis's online sales saw a 27.9 percent increase, exceeding £600m for the year to date.

Sales in the John Lewis home department saw a 13.6 percent boost, with fashion close behind with a 10.3 percent increase. Electrical goods sales increased by four percent.

The figures show continued growth when compared to 2009, with a 19.1 percent increase in total sales and 14.4 percent growth in like-for-like sales

Although the sales figures paint a positive picture, it is less clear what the resulting effect of price-cuts and competing promotions have made on profits.

Managing Director Andy Street hailed the sales figures as "outstanding".

"The first week of clearance saw a very strong start, but against the pre-VAT increase week in 2010, it was always going to be a challenge to match sales, particularly with "big ticket" items.

"Above all our success can be attributed to the excellent service delivered by our partners as well as inspiring products and outstanding value."

He claimed that he expected the good times to continue, but warned that 2012 trade will "undoubtedly be challenging and economic conditions volatile".

Next chief executive told the Press Association that consumer moods were "subdued", as customers were looking to spend less and seeking the lowest promotion prices.