Tue. Jan 22nd, 2019

Debenhams sales tumble over Christmas

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Debenhams store

Struggling department store chain Debenhams has reported a fall in sales during the crucial Christmas trading period.

In a “volatile” environment with customers seeking discounts, Debenhams reported a 5.7% fall in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 5 January.

The group, which is closing 50 stores, said it would not sell off any businesses while it spoke to its lenders.

Talks with lenders were “constructive”.

In the shorter trading period, the six weeks to 5 January, like-for-like sales – which strip out changes to stores – were down 3.4%.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct owns nearly 30% of Debenhams and has offered a £40m investment in the chain.

Debenhams rebuffed his approach but is talking to lenders about renewing £520m of banking facilities.

In the meantime, it will postpone the possible sale of other parts of its business, including its successful operations in Denmark.

Debenhams, which employs around 25,000, said it had been cutting prices over the Christmas period and that might eat into profits in the first half of the year.

In October, when it published full-year results, it reported a record annual loss and said it would close up to 50 of its 165 branches.

It has revamped nine stores and said Stevenage was the best performer of them.

Sergio Bucher, chief executive of Debenhams, said the improvement in the redesigned stores demonstrated his attempt to turn around the business was making progress.

“We have worked hard to deliver the best possible outcome in very uncertain times for retailers. We responded to a significant increase in promotional activity in the market, particularly in key seasonal categories, in order to remain competitive for our customers,” he said.

Online sales rose 6% in the six-week Christmas trading period, after what Debenhams described as “slow start to the season”. It said this meant there had been two-year online growth of over 20%.

Debenhams sales tumble over Christmas

Struggling department store chain Debenhams has reported a fall in sales during the crucial Christmas trading period. In a “volatile” environment with customers seeking discounts, Debenhams reported a 5.7% fall in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 5 January.

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