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Debenhams hopes menswear rejig will lift it from doldrums

Debenhams is to revamp its 'underperforming' menswear offer and increase the marketing spend on its premium lines by 50%, following its third profit warning in five months.

The retailer also admitted it was rethinking its promotional strategy amid criticism from the City that it was damaging the credibility of its offer.

Debenhams said it was reviewing its men's formalwear and casualwear offer after disappointing sales.

A key figure in the overhaul will be former men's accessories and gifts buyer Paul Baldwin, who has been appointed as director of buying for menswear. He replaces Stefan Pesticcio, who left last month. Baldwin will report to divisional trading director for menswear Adam Creasey.

Chief operating officer Michael Sharp told Drapers that formalwear was the weakest men's offer. "We are reviewing underperforming areas and taking action to fix the problems, and Paul will help. It's a mix of design, price and choice, especially in the mid-priced part of the range. There are too many options and the ease of shopping has not been the best."

He added that men's casualwear own brand Mantaray, which went into about 60 stores a month ago, had started well.

Sharp said it would raise its advertising spend by 50%. For the year to February it spent £27.5 million on advertising, according to Nielsen Media Research. The extra cash will be used to promote more premium product, such as its Designers at Debenhams range.

This week its latest TV ad push, featuring newly signed face, actress Jane Seymour, aired for the first time (Drapers, April 14).

Sharp added that no menswear "face" was planned.

Debenhams would also rethink its promotional strategy, he said. "We will have three mega days a year and our main and mid-season Sales as normal, but overall we want more premium weeks focusing on selling full-price product."

The 132-store chain is speeding up its openings and refits, with 29 full stores and five Desire stores in the pipeline, and 60 refits planned.

DEBENHAMS' RESULTS IN DETAIL

- Like-for-like sales: fell 6.9% for six weeks to April 15 and dropped 4.5% for 26 weeks to March 3

- Total sales: up 5.8% to £1.29 billion

- Pre-tax profits: up 34.4% to £105.5 million

- Profits for year: expected to be below market forecasts.

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