The biggest department store group and traditional retail bellwether John Lewis said its sales had dipped slightly last week compared with the same week a year ago, as mild autumnal weather and a difficult economic backdrop deterred shoppers.

The employee-owned business said on Sunday that sales in the week to November 12 were 76 million pounds, up 6 percent from last week but down 0.8 percent from a year ago, on strong comparatives.

Consumer confidence has weakened in the face of higher taxes and inflation and rising unemployment, with weak October figures from the British Retail Consortium last week boding ill for the key Christmas season.

But sales of floor coverings, curtains and bedding posted significant increases in the week, while Christmas trees and technology and food-related gifts had also done well, said John Lewis, which launched its Christmas TV advertising campaign in a primetime slot on Saturday.

With very strong figures from last year against us, milder weather than is seasonal and the turbulent economic climate, our results show that our customers are beginning to think seriously about Christmas, said retail director Andrew Murphy.

In the week to November 5 John Lewis reported a rise of 4.4 percent in department store sales.

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by David Cowell)