Updates from John Lewis and Debenhams

A +0.26% rise for the FTSE 100 to 6,749: Aberdeen Asset Management saw the biggest climb, up +3.05% to 500p while Marks & Spencer saw its share price drift -2.28% to 432.60p. Sainsbury's shares were again under pressure, down -1.64% to 365p.

The Dow Jones finished up +0.44% at 16,576, a 72.3 point climb. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
We commence the year with strong sales from John Lewis. Total sales at the department store climbed 6.9% to £734m in the five weeks up to 28 December. Online orders was a major support for this sales surge.

Web sales leapt 22.6% with smartphones and tablet computers taking a disproportionate sales jump, compared to other sales categories. 27 December saw an especially strong sales day with sales of more than £35m.

John Lewis' managing director Andy Street has confirmed JL has growth plans to more than double in size during the next 10 years, as well as opening a French website - more signs of a shift to internationalise the brand.

Staying on the high street, Debenhams says director and chief financial officer, Simon Herrick, is to quit following an end-of-year corporate profits warning. Debenhams blamed poor weather and pressure on household pay packets for the profits worry.

Before Christmas Debenhams told suppliers of a "Santa tax" to fund future Debenhams modernisation plans. Debenhams denied this was to firm up fragile Xmas trading. "We have asked suppliers for a contribution to support our commitment to ongoing investment in the business," Sky News reported.

Shares in the company came under pressure yesterday following an expectation that pre-tax profits for the six months to April 2014 will lower to £85m compared to £115m from the year before.

Lastly, IMI has announced the disposal of its Beverage Dispense and Merchandising divisions for an enterprise value of $1.1 billion was completed yesterday. IMI proposes to return approximately £620 million of cash to shareholders by way of a 'B and C share' scheme.

The return of cash will require IMI shareholder approval at a general meeting. IMI confirms also that Brendan Colgan, Managing Director of Fluid Power, and Peter Spencer, Managing Director of Indoor Climate, have been appointed to the Group's Executive Committee.

"IMI," says chief exec Mark Selway, "is now a specialist flow control group entirely focused on industrial end markets. This strong foundation creates greater opportunities for technical and operational synergies and provides an excellent platform for future growth."

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