Debenhams' sales fall flat after changes to promotions calendar
Department store chain Debenhams, which has five stores in Northern Ireland, said moves to bring forward promotions such as its new season spectacular left sales flat in its third quarter.
The retailer, which has a total of 161 UK stores and more than 240 outlets worldwide, said moves to overhaul its promotional strategy as it attempts to cut back on sales and special offers reduced same store sales by around 1% over the 15 weeks to June 13.
Debenhams shifted many of its promotions into the group's first half and said its new strategy saw three fewer days of special offers in the latest quarter.
The group is anchor tenant in CastleCourt in Belfast, Rushmere in Craigavon, Foyleside in Londonderry, Ballymena's Fairhill and Newry's Quays Shopping Centre.
It saw a 16.7% hike in online sales - up from 12.7% in the first half - after the group lowered delivery charges and improved its website.
Despite the failure to grow like-for-like sales in the third quarter, chief executive Michael Sharp said the firm had made "good progress".
"During this period we have continued to focus our promotional activity around the events Debenhams is famous for," Mr Sharp said.
"We have made further improvements to our multi-channel proposition, including more competitive delivery charges; we have commenced further space trials with a number of exciting new partnerships - and have seen continued progress in our international operations."
But he added: "Our customers tell us that, whilst they recognise the improving economic background, they remain cautious in their spending."
The group said it had been cutting down the number of days on discount for the past year and will look to add more variety into its promotions and give clarity on sales offers for customers.
Debenhams has been overhauling its pricing and online offer and is also renting out some of its under-used space to other retailers to boost sales.
It is launching further trials to make use of its store space, with new partners including Patisserie Valerie, BHS lighting and Chi Kitchen, a pan-Asian cuisine offer from the owners of Mango Tree.
Debenhams is also launching more concessions with sportswear retailer Sports Direct, with another four due to open by the end of the financial year, on top of four already launched.