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Debenhams bucks the Christmas downturn

Debenhams outperformed much of the high street this Christmas notching up a 2.2% increase in like-for-like sales for the four weeks to January 5.

Total sales at the department store chain were up 4.4% for the period. However, for the 18 weeks to January 5, total sales like-for-like sales were flat and total sales ahead 2%.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman said the Christmas performance had been strong and had helped to offset a slower November.

Strong sales from the Designer at Debenhams brands, which include Rocha John Rocha and Butterfly by Matthew Williamson, also helped buoy the numbers over Christmas.

The figures were also underpinned by strong online sales which were up by 85%, with visitors to the site increasing by 57% against the same time last year.

However Templeman said he was cautious about 2008: "The fragile state of consumer confidence leads us to view the future with caution and we are running the business on the basis that market conditions will remain difficult. To this end, we are focusing more on our designer credentials, which we believe will be more resilient in this environment, as well as managing our cost base, the speed of our refit and capital expenditure programmes and our inventory levels tightly.”

Former George Global managing director Angela Spindler will join the board as managing director on February 4.

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