Debenhams is focusing on “self-help” and implementing its customer-centric strategy to mitigate the “volatile” trading market, chief executive Sergio Bucher has said.
As reported earlier today, the retailer’s group like-for-like sales fell by 0.9% for the 15 weeks to 17 June, and its group gross transaction value dipped by 1%.
Bucher said the clothing market had weakened and consumer confidence had dropped, but insisted that Debenhams remains in a good position.
“We are a strong business facing external headwinds and an uncertain trading background. Over the next few months we are focused on self-help. We have a plan. We are at the beginning of the journey but we’re already leading those changes, which allow us to focus on customers.”
Bucher’s strategy, which is called Debenhams Redesigned and focuses on experiential shopping, digital growth and driving efficiency, was first unveiled in April.
Bucher said May was particularly challenging but trade has picked up over the last couple of weeks: “It is well documented that lots of factors hit consumer confidence, and clothing was affected more than other areas. The election and inflation means people are being more cautious with the money they have to spend.
“There is always something that happens that affects business but we are focused on delivering our strategy, as that’s something we can control.”
Debenhams said it expected profit before tax for the year to be within the range of market expectations. However, he warned that it could be towards the “lower end” if market volatility continues.
Sally Hyndman, former HR director for Dixons Carphone, has joined Debenhams in the same role, while Angela Morrison, formerly CIO at Direct Line, has moved across as technology and supply chain director.
Since April, Debenhams has launched a training programme to support up to 2,000 employees to switch to customer-facing roles. The business has completed the transition to a single warehouse management system and has begun consultation on the closure of its Northampton distribution centre and 10 regional warehousing facilities.
Meanwhile stock options at the retailer have been reduced by 10% to declutter stores.
The business will provide an update on its plans to close up to 10 UK stores and exit some international markets in October.