Debenhams taps Christmas spirit

15-01-2008

Debenhams taps Christmas spirit
Debenhams, Britain's second-largest department stores group, enjoyed pre-Christmas sales 2.2 per cent higher than 12 months ago.

In the four weeks to January 5th, the company said it had seen overall sales 4.4 per cent higher than last year, while for the quarter as a whole, total sales were two per cent higher than this time 12 months ago.

Rob Templeman, chief executive of the designer clothing maker, said that the performance "offset the weak market experienced in November and resulted in flat like-for-like sales growth for the first 18 weeks of the year."

Despite the positive growth, however, Mr Templeman says "the fragile state of consumer confidence leads us to view the future with caution".

The grim prediction for 2008 is in line with similar worries from other retailers stemming from the credit crunch and higher energy prices.

The "pleasing performance" of designer clothing and online sales boosted the troubled department store group, which issued a series of profit warnings last year and saw its shares lose more than half their value.

"To this end, we are focusing more on our designer credentials, which we believe will be more resilient in this environment, as well as managing our cost base, the speed of our refit and capital expenditure programmes and our inventory levels tightly," said Mr Templeman.

So far the department store chain, which operates 141 stores across the UK and Ireland, has seen its share price shed almost three per cent to 74.25p in trading this morning.

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