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Was Debenhams right to blame the weather?

As Debenhams cites the snow in January as the reason for the fall in first half profits - bu Ruth Faulkner considers whether that is the whole story.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb was fairly damning in his note about Debenhams this morning, saying that the retailer would be “well-advised” to get away from talking about the weather.

Back at the beginning of March the department store retailer warned that its first half profits would be down as a result of heavy snowfall over the two weeks from January 14 – 27. Debenhams said sales fell by as much as 10% over those two weeks.

While it is true that the snow no doubt had an impact on trade for most retailers over that two week period, it is two weeks out of a full six months trade. Debenhams needs to be careful not to place too much emphasis on the weather.

January is not the only period of bad weather we have experienced this year, with snow continuing to fall right into March in some parts of the country.

Even high street bellwether John Lewis saw its sales dip some weeks, especially when it came to sales of its spring 13 fashion product.

But unlike Debenhams, this business has a strong omnichannel arm that was able to take some of the slack from people not willing to venture out in the cold.

There are of course other factors affecting profits for Debenhams in the first half of its financial year. Heavy discounting has been deployed for months and it’s not just the weather that has hurt its bottom line.

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