August 8, 2012, 2:39 PM

U.K. retailer John Lewis reports a more than 40% increase in online sales

More conversions helped drive sales, the retail chain says.

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John Lewis Partnership—one of Britain’s largest retailers—is reporting a 43.5% rise in online sales over the past year. “We managed to achieve growth in both shops and online,” says Andy Street, managing director of the company, adding that e-commerce is its fastest-growing channel.

“The trailblazing performance throughout the year was by, where sales leapt by over 40%,” Street says. “All product categories thrived, but most encouraging is the increase in our rate of conversion, a testament to our operation.”

John Lewis, No. 16 in the in Internet Retailer Top 400 Europe Guide, did not break out its web sales. However, according to Internet Retailer estimates, the department store’s 2011 web sales totaled $1.2 billion. Annual web and store sales combined totaled 9 billion pounds (US$14 billion) in 2011, the company says.

Street says streamlining the company’s delivery systems and working more closely with subsidiary companies, such as the grocery chain Waitrose, contributed to the company’s strong online performance. “Improvements in fulfillment have helped and the stand-out result was the doubling of click and collect business, thanks largely to the collaboration with Waitrose,” Street says.

What in the U.S. is typically called order online, pick up in store, goes by the snappier name of click and collect in the U.K. And U.K. consumers increasingly are choosing the option of picking up online orders in stores, instead of waiting for home deliveries that might not show up.

U.K shoppers spent 34.9 billion pounds ($54.2 billion) online in the first half of the year, up 12.6% from 31 billion pounds ($48.1 billion) in the first six months of 2011, The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index finds. That double-digit growth in online sales is remarkable given that the U.K.'s gross domestic product has fallen in five of the last seven quarters. Total retail sales were up only 1.6% year over year in June, and the country's economy shrunk by 0.7% in the second quarter, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics.

But U.K. consumers continue to spend more online, meaning they're moving more of their purchases from stores to the web. In June, online shoppers spent an estimated 6 billion pounds ($9.3 billion)–an average of 117 pounds ($181) per person—up 13% from June 2011.

John Lewis was founded by John Spedan Lewis as a small shop on Oxford Street, London, in 1864. Each of the retailer’s 81,000 employees owns part of the company and earns a share of its profits.

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