Debenhams saw sales rise 1.2% for the 26 weeks ended March 1 but like-for-like sales fell back 0.7%, hit by the challenging trading conditions in January and February.
However Debenhams said it gained market share across all major clothing categories over the first half period. The department store group said that it expected gross margin to be down 20 basis points year on year.
Chief executive Rob Templeman said: “Following a good performance over Christmas and the January sale, market conditions were tough through the remainder of January and February. Nevertheless, we are pleased with the response of customers to our new season's ranges and to the improvements we have made in quality, design and value at all price levels, as evidenced by our market share gains.”
He added: “The macro economic climate leads us to expect the retail environment to remain challenging and we are therefore focusing on driving sales, gaining market share and controlling our stocks and cost base.”
Debenhams said profit before take for the first half would be in line with market expectations.