Debenhams given a welcome lift by Black Friday bonanza
Department store chain Debenhams, which has five stores in Northern Ireland, shrugged off the unusually mild winter weather to post a rise in sales, thanks to bumper Black Friday and Christmas trading.
Supermarket giant Sainsbury's will be hoping for the same surprise result when it reports on Christmas trading this morning.
Debenhams - the anchor tenant in Belfast's CastleCourt Shopping Centre, as well as Craigavon's Rushmere - reported a 1.9% increase in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to January 9, with growth of 1.8% in the final seven weeks.
It hailed a successful Black Friday and a record performance in the Christmas week, adding that it continued to rein in promotions despite widespread discounting on the high street in December after unseasonably warm weather, with full-price sales up 5%.
Debenhams, which has around 160 UK stores out of more than 250 worldwide, said it cut back on certain clothing lines such as winter coats to overcome the impact of the warmest December in over 100 years.
Rivals such as Next and Marks & Spencer were hit as shoppers shunned heavy coats in favour of lighter-weight items in November and December.
Shares in Debenhams raced more than 14% higher on the better-than-expected festive performance.
Outgoing chief executive Michael Sharp, who announced plans last October to leave in 2016, said the sales rise shows turnaround efforts are continuing to pay off. He said: "This performance is evidence that our strategy is working."