UK: Tough start to second half for department stores group Debenhams

The Debenhams store in Ipswich

The Debenhams store in Ipswich

Debenhams today blamed bruising trading conditions for slower sales growth seen at the department store chain over the past 16 weeks.

The group, which has 235 stores in 27 countries, said like-for-like sales were flat in the period to last Saturday, having risen 3.1% in the prior half-year.

Chief executive Michael Sharp described the performance as robust and said there had been a high degree of volatility caused by the poor spring weather, which dampened demand for new season ranges.

Debenhams issued a profits warning in March due to the impact of January’s snowstorms, but said today it remained on track to meet the City’s revised forecasts for results in the year to the end of August.

It has been buoyed by a 40% rise in online sales and further growth in its market share in key categories such as womenswear and beauty.

Mr Sharp said: “We have managed the business to reflect the market conditions, with a strong focus on stocks, margins and costs.”

Debenhams is on schedule to complete the transformation of its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street by December.

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The £25million modernisation, which will include covering the seven floor shop in 180,000 aluminum tiles, is expected to create 430 new jobs.

There are 150 roles available in three new hospitality areas, with the remainder across new-look departments including Debenhams’ biggest ever beauty hall.