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Debenhams to revamp its offer

Debenhams will launch new brands and expand its Designers at Debenhams ranges in the autumn to boost its own-label business.

The department store group will launch a full womenswear collection for its surf-inspired brand Mantaray, which is currently only a menswear range, in September.
A new kids’ casualwear label called Blue Zoo will go into stores for boys and girls aged four to 11. Its pricing will sit a little below the kids’ Designers at Debenhams ranges.

Some 40 Debenhams stores will get a new sports and leisure department selling men’s and women’s wear from brands such as Nike, Adidas and Animal,
as the group aims to build its leisurewear market share ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Debenhams is also expanding its Designers at Debenhams brands Betty Jackson Black and J by Jasper Conran and putting the ranges into more stores. Butterfly by Matthew Williamson will also return as a clothing collection in September.

Deputy chief executive Michael Sharp said the expanded ranges were part of a strategy to increase the proportion of higher-margin own-bought product in the company’s stores.

He added that the expanded ranges would also fill the space left after Debenhams sells all the Principles stock it bought from the womenswear chain’s administrator earlier this month.

Sharp said: “We want to expand the ranges and the price architecture with some of the key Designers at Debenhams, and we’ll give them more space across the stores and invest in the product.

“The Principles stock going won’t cause us a problem as we have product for that customer. Our shoppers have told us they want fewer brands with a clearer brand positioning.”

Sharp said market share had grown across all categories, especially kidswear and menswear.

He added that this year’s promotional strategy had been planned to follow last year’s, but the retailer would react to what was happening in the market.
Like-for-like sales excluding VAT at Debenhams fell 3.6% for the six months to February 28. The company said that gross transaction value rose 0.3% over the period and added that pre-tax profit and EBITDA would be ahead of last year thanks to tight cost control and improved gross margin.

Debenhams added that sales growth in own-bought product had boosted margin, but that it was prepared for tough trading for the rest of the year.

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