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Business Comment

Debenhams online plan better work or we'll see a Sharp end


Outlook Another factor that kept inflation down is the competition for the shopper's pound on the high street and especially online.

They may be spending again, but only after some aggressive discounting on the part of retailers. Debenhams has emerged as one of the chief victims of that.

The department-store chain has just unveiled profits that are as bad as it warned they would be in December when it issued the second profit warning in a year. The shares bounced yesterday, but only out of relief that there weren't any new nasties.

Nonetheless a 25 per cent fall in profits tells its own story. After two and a half years in the job there isn't much evidence that chief executive Michael Sharp has cut into the problems that beset the group.

With his neck on the line he's been talking about bringing more definition to the group's discounting. So the constant stream of short-term promotions that some feel devalue Debs' brands will end.

Meanwhile, discussions are going on to bring more concessions into the shops – so Sports Direct might yet score with its raid on the company's shares.

But key may be Mr Sharp's plans to turn Debs around by making shopping online with the chain more flexible.

If these measures don't work quickly Mr Sharp may find he joins former finance director Simon Herrick in shopping for alternative employment.