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Business News

Debenhams maintains growth despite big chill

Department store chain Debenhams today said it had maintained sales and profit growth through the cold snap and a "challenging" trading backdrop.

The firm's like-for-like sales grew 0.3 per cent in the 26 weeks to February 27 - up from 0.1 per cent after 18 weeks - despite some disruption from the snow.

The group also grew market share in menswear and childrenswear although womenswear was dented by its shift from concessions to own-bought ranges.

Debenhams added that it had seen a strong early response to the February revival of the Principles brand, which is now designed by Ben de Lisi.

Principles, which traded through 94 stores as well as Debenhams concessions, succumbed to recession a year ago. Debenhams bought stock from administrators to keep the brand in stores until the relaunch.

"We are greatly encouraged with the initial response of customers and believe that Principles has the potential to become one of our biggest brands over the medium-term," the firm said.

The focus on own-bought products has temporarily dented sales growth but boosted profit margins.

Chief executive Rob Templeman said: "Against the backdrop of challenging trading conditions, we have delivered profit growth on a consistent basis for the past 18 months."

Debenhams has also launched a new Designers at Debenhams range, H! by Henry Holland, which will be officially launched by the designer at the company's Oxford Street store tomorrow.

After temporary disruption when the company shifted store layouts to reflect its new strategy, Debenhams expects to reap more benefit from the 150,000 sq ft of space now given over to its brands in the second half of the financial year. Online sales meanwhile rose over 80 per cent in the first half.

The group opened four new stores in the six months to February, including a flagship department store in Newcastle and three new Desire by Debenhams stores in Kidderminster, Monks Cross in York, and Witney, Oxfordshire.

As well as new international franchise stores in Iran and Vietnam, its UK store refurbishment programme recommenced in February with projects including major store refits in Glasgow and Manchester now under way.