Debenhams boosted by Black Friday and Christmas demand

Debenhams hailed record trading for the Christmas week. Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Debenhams hailed record trading for the Christmas week. Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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Department store chain Debenhams shrugged off the unusually mild winter weather to post a rise in sales thanks to bumper Black Friday and Christmas trading.

The group reported a 1.9 per cent increase in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to 9 January, with growth of 1.8 per cent in the final seven weeks.

It hailed a successful Black Friday and 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 per cent.

Debenhams, which has about 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.

READ MORE: House of Fraser cheered by festive trading

Debenhams’ 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.”

The update comes after annual results in October showed a 7.3 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £113.5 million for the year to 29 August.

READ MORE: Debenhams chief Michael Sharp to step down next year

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: “A planned reduction in outerwear clothing stocks has clearly played its part, while management’s push to increase online sales continues to progress. A focus on non-clothing categories is also reaping rewards, with new store opening further contributing.”

Sharp, who is to stand down after nearly five years at the helm, said Debenhams was helped as it boosted its non-clothing sales, now accounting for more than 55 per cent of group takings, thanks to strong demand for ranges such as beauty, gifts and electricals.

“We have enjoyed a record Christmas trading period including our best ever December and Christmas week,” he said.

“We are particularly pleased with our performance in beauty and gifts where we delivered a good result in store along with strong online sales.”

The retailer saw online sales in the Christmas week jump by 36 per cent, while internet orders rose by a fifth on Black Friday, peaking at 220 a minute.

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