Clothing and homewares retailer Debenhams significantly profited from the prolonged discount atmosphere at the end of 2011, seeing sales rise over the last quarter of the year.
In the 18 weeks to January 7th 2012 like-for-like (LFL) trading at the department store chain was up 1.4 per cent including VAT and flat once VAT is excluded, but a successful festive period meant the five weeks to December 31st 2011 saw LFLs jump 6.5 per cent year-on-year.
Tight stock controls meant that gross margin predictions for the full-year remain flat and the retailer claims that its financial position remains strong.
Michael Sharp, CEO of Debenhams, commented: “I am pleased with this performance. We traded well despite the difficult environment as evidenced by strong sales in December, including record sales in the final week before Christmas.
“Looking forward, we are cautious about the strength of the economy and its impact on consumer behaviour over the remainder of the financial year. We will continue to manage the business tightly with an ongoing emphasis on cost and margin management.”
While modest compared to its store openings number of a few years ago, Debenhams still bucked the high street trend by unveiling a new store in Newbury during the period, taking its total national portfolio to 170 outlets.
Like many UK retailers, the firm has been looking to expand in developing markets, and in the period two new stores were opened in the Philippines, meaning Debenhams now has 66 stores in 25 countries.
Online sales again provided considerable growth, up 34.8 per cent in the 18-week period, and although warm weather prohibited overall trading during the early part of winter season, the business is somewhat bullish about the year ahead.
Sharp added: “We are confident that the design, quality and value offered by our spring/summer 2012 product ranges will find favour with customers and expect to see some benefit from lower input prices in the second half of the year.”