Belfast Telegraph

Debenhams is latest in sick bay

By Margaret Canning, Business Journalist

Nothing reminds us more emphatically that Christmas is almost over than the trickle of festive sales reports from our top retailers.

All John Lewis sales were up 6.9% on a year earlier and store sales were up 1.2% in the five weeks to Christmas.

Apart from website purchases, we Northern Ireland consumers can't claim much credit for John Lewis, and the benefits of a good Christmas that will eventually trickle into employees' pockets through its partnership employee reward scheme.

But the province's lovers of Bertie shoes, Jo Malone candles and Ralph Lauren polo shirts did contribute to an impressive Christmas for House of Fraser.

Belfast could claim the second biggest festive sales jump out of 60 HoF stores, a fact which will induce much celebration over in Victoria Square.

But Debenhams is looking increasingly like the poor cousin of department stores, after issuing a profit warning which hastened the departure of its finance boss, Simon Herrick.

The eighth day of Christmas brought no maids-a-milking to his door.

It's unfair to directly compare HoF Belfast with Debenhams Belfast, because the latter has not furnished any information about the shape of individual stores.

But we can say that the last few weeks will have given Debenhams much food for thought.

That could result in a fresh look at its massive portfolio of overseas stores, and could trigger a rethink of store lay-outs in those which make the grade.

Whatever happens, UK shoppers will hope that a well-loved name can pull through.

Belfast Telegraph