Shorts, flip-flops and online keep Debenhams growing


Strong online sales made up for a fall in shoppers coming through Debenhams’ doors, according to the department store’s latest figures.

A revamp of its flagship Oxford Street store also remains on track and will be completed in November — at a cost of £40 million — just in time for the hoped-for Christmas rush .

The warm summer also helped sales of shorts and sandals jump by at least 30%, while the business managed to increase market share across several areas of the business.

Online sales soared 46% in the past year, delivering an overall 2% rise in like-for-like sales but suggesting fewer customers coming into stores.

Profits remain in line with expectations of £153m, and bring a calm end to a turbulent year for the group, which issued a profit warning in March due to the snow.

Chief executive Michael Sharp said: “The return to more seasonal weather conditions over the summer has been helpful.”

But he warned: “We are confident in our strategy but are not expecting any rapid recovery in consumer sentiment.”

The rise in online sales saw Debenhams gain market share. Online now accounts for 13% of  its business.

However, the retailer is still trailing rival John Lewis, which sees 26% of sales through its own website. Despite the online gains, Sharp is keen to continue opening new stores and has 70 sites identified. He has previously said that customers who shop in-store and online are likely to spend twice as much as those who use only a single channel.

The company also saw an increase in customers using smartphones and tablets, up 78% on the year, and said they were also spending more money through them. Sales of seasonal clothes soared. About 800,000 pairs of men’s shorts were bought in the 10 weeks to the end of August, up 30% on a year earlier.

Flip-flop sales rose 43% to 280,000 pairs and sales of women’s shorts jumped 24%.

The Oxford Street revamp will add 20,000 sq ft of retail space as old offices are converted into shop floor. The exterior will be clad with 180,000 metal tiles.