Belfast Telegraph

Christmas gifts and 'successful Black Friday' boost Debenhams sales

Debenhams was sitting pretty after a growth surge in its beauty and gift sections boosted sales over the Christmas period.

The department store chain said group like-for-like sales rose 3.5% in the 18 weeks to January 7, with non-clothing now accounting for 57% of total sales.

Online sales were also pushing higher, jumping 13.9% over the period, thanks in part to a sales boost from a "successful Black Friday".

The firm said it held on to market share in the fiercely competitive clothing market despite trimming back on clothing options and discounting, with stocks down 7% year on year.

Shares in Debenhams were more than 4% higher in morning trading on the FTSE 250 index.

Chief executive Sergio Bucher was cheered by the results, but said there was "a lot more we can do to build from this base".

"I'm pleased with the performance we have achieved in the key trading weeks of Black Friday and over the Christmas peak, given the challenges in the broader environment and the strong performance last year.

"The resilience of Debenhams' differentiated offer is beginning to show through, with the growth we have driven in beauty and gifting.

"It's encouraging to see that the service improvements we have made helped us to deliver strong multi-channel sales growth."

The firm said it had also launched nine more food service offers, including new partnerships with sour dough pizza restaurant Franco Manca and James Martin Kitchen.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: " It's a long time since Debenhams thought it appropriate to say anything about the sordid subject of 'current trading', with investors focused on the upcoming strategic review from the new CEO with the interims in April.

"But ahead of this morning's AGM it has come clean and the update for the 17 weeks to Jan 7 is actually rather pleasing."

Debenhams reported a slump in full-year profits in October, with Mr Bucher vowing to update the market on his long-term plans in the spring.

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