Mike Ashley once boasted he had “balls of steel”. Frankly, for anyone else to spend £45 million on shares in Debenhams after its Christmas drubbing, you’d need them.

Christmas presents: Fashions for men

Wooden toy pistol

Fashion: Cheap date

There's only one way to dress for the Christmas party season: with lots of glitter and sparkle, and a good measure of sass. The good news? You needn't spend a fortune to shine

Floating off on paper profits

The flotation of Newsquest, the regional newspaper group, is drawing nearer with the shares being priced on Thursday. Subscriptions close on Wednesday. The shares were valued in a range from 250p to 290p, but indications this weekend suggest the deal will be priced at a little below the mid point of 270p. Demand from institutions has been building strongly, with further interest expressed by retail investors over the last few days.

House of Fraser shows first signs of turnaround

House of Fraser, the struggling DH Evans and Dickins & Jones department store group, gave the first evidence that its long-awaited recovery is bearing fruit yesterday when it reported reduced first half losses and news that its new brand of own-label clothing is selling well. Nigel Cope, City Correspondent, reports.

Investment Column: House of Fraser improves its act

House of Fraser has been such a dismal performer since its flotation in 1994 that there was a feeling of relief yesterday that the department store group finally managed to deliver a set of results with no nasty surprises.

Jacques Vert warns loss will rise to pounds 9m

Jacques Vert, the troubled women's clothing retailer, said yesterday it expected to make a loss of more than pounds 9m for the year to May. The loss is much higher than the market had expected and the group admitted it would be forced to record a big stock write-down after discovering problems during its annual stock count.

The store with more adds a label to its line

With the unveiling of Linea, its own designer collection, House of Fraser moves even closer to being the ultimate one-stop shop, writes Belinda Morris

Shopping: Boom time for department stores

More and more shoppers are heading for department stores in search of good service and interesting products, according to figures published today.

The sleaze report: Five men who fell below the standards that Parliament demands from an MP

Hamilton: cash and a stay at Ritz; Smith: accepted cash in return for lobbying; Grylls: Misled committee over dealings Bowden: Did not declare; Brown: Failed to register

Get the look...and get it right: Glad to be fey

The name "Empire line" came about because the dresses worn at the time of Napoleon's Empire (1804-15) were high-waisted and emphasised a heaving bosom. In fact, this look was around before Nappie came on the scene. The 19th century had barely been counted in when English girlies were already wearing this "vertical" silhouette (as it is more properly called, but empire line sounds better than vertical). The French, however, went for it rather more whole-heartedly - it was not uncommon for mademoiselle to dampen her dress (often made of fine silk or muslin) so that it would cling to her. Which goes to show that the wet T-shirt look is, like so many things in fashion, old hat. Anyway, this is a fantastically romantic look which we have recreated in more contemporary fashion on the previous page. To get the look, you have to concentrate on the details and the most important is your underwear: this is no time for a wonderbra look, you need a "balcony"-effect cleavage, which you get most effectively with an old-fashioned corset. Necklaces should be delicate and bags should be tiny - Emily Jo Gibbs makes the absolute best. Finally, for those handy with a needle, Amazon Drygood (2218 East 11th Street, Davenport, LA 52803- 3760, USA, write for a brochure) sell fabulous patterns, so you can make your own empire-line dresses.

Howard's leadership hopes are hit again

A third former Home Office minister yesterday took a sideswipe at Michael Howard, the former Home Secretary, in a fresh blow to his Conservative leadership campaign.

The curse of Al-Fayed

For want of a passport an election was lost. A corporate war of unparalleled ferocity continues to claim victims - will Michael Howard be next? victim of a ferocious corporate war?

Jacques Vert shares crash

Shares in Jacques Vert, the clothing company, crashed 13p to 26.5p after it warned that results for the financial year to 3 May were likely to be significantly below market expectations. The retail division has performed below expectations despite a like-for-like sales growth of 18 per cent in the second half. However, the performance of concessions in House of Fraser stores has been "very disappointing".

Get the look ... and get it right: Feet and two wedge

The wedge, along with ankle straps and spindly heels (or desert boots and thongs, to go to the other extreme) is the big shoe look for summer. Wedges are great because they give height without forsaking comfort, although if you twist off them, your ankle may well break. This is why I wear mine with trepidation (do not attempt to wear tights with wedges, you need all the grip you can get). The Prada one here is one of the best available, but it will sell out almost immediately (for those who want it to look more Prada-esque, they also do a wedge with leafy design along the heel). No matter, the Pied a Terre one featured gets my mark for the best high-street wedge of the summer - it goes with everything, but looks especially good with capri pants.

Directors net bumper bonuses

It was another bonanza day for "fat cats" yesterday, as top executives at Cordiant, P&O and British Borneo, and three former directors of House of Fraser all enjoyed bumper handouts.
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