Debenhams shakes off a soggy start with boost from Jubilee

Debenhams said yesterday the Diamond Jubilee had helped it deliver trading ahead of City expectations but the department store chain warned that the high street had not been able to recoup the clothing sales lost to the early summer's wet weather.

While the unseasonal rain has hit purchases of women's dresses, skirts and swimwear, it appears to have driven shoppers into department stores, instead of to the beach, park or garden centres, and Debenhams delivered a strong performance in its home, accessories and beauty categories.

Debenhams, which has 171 stores in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, posted underlying sales up 3.1 per cent over the 16 weeks to 23 June, which marked a sharp improvement on the 1.2 per cent growth over the longer 42-week period.

Its chief executive Michael Sharp said: "For the Jubilee, there was definitely a gifting lift and a good performance in childrenswear because of the long Jubilee weekend, which coincided with half term." It benefited from increased footfall around Easter and Mother's Day.

Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec, said: "The sales result was much better than we, and the market, had feared." Total sales rose 3.9 per cent over the 16 weeks. However, Mr Sharp said it was "definitely too late" to recover summer clothing sales.