Debenhams Q1 sales down despite strong Christmas

Debenhams has reported a weaker than expected first quarter as demand for winter clothing suffered from unseasonal weather.

The department store said today UK like-for-like sales were down 0.8% in the 19 weeks to January 10, below analyst expectations for a 1% rise.

The firm also warned that a strong performance from low margin categories during this period, combined with challenging season in clothing, will result in its full-year margin improvement being towards the lower end of its 0.1-0.4 percentage point forecast.

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On a brighter note, however, sales picked up in December, with the retailer reporting a record performance in the seven days before Christmas.

Sales rose by 10.3% during this period, thanks to a strong Black Friday event, while online orders on the day were up 125%.

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp commented: "I am pleased with our performance in the critical Christmas trading weeks, driven by our strength in a diverse range of product categories and a strong marketing campaign focussed on gifting.

“Our performance steadily improved following the well documented challenges in the clothing market in the autumn. We now have a competitive online proposition with next day delivery to home and next day click and collect, which customers took full advantage of and which performed well over Christmas. I would like to thank the whole Debenhams team for their tremendous efforts in delivering this performance,” he added.

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