Debenhams like-for-like sales slipped back 0.7% for the 26 weeks ended March 1 but the department store said it had scored market share gains in all major clothing categories.
Profit before tax fell back to £94.1 million against £107.4m for the same period last year.
Own brand sales grew from 70.5% in the first half of last year to 72.2% of total sales. Menswear clawed back last year’s market share losses while womenswear saw particularly strong gains in occasionwear and formalwear.
Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman said: “Against the backdrop of a tough retail marketplace, I am pleased with our sales performance for the first half relative to the sector which has resulted in market share gains across our core clothing categories. We have been particularly pleased with sales from our exclusive Designers at Debenhams ranges where our continued emphasis on design, quality and value has been recognised by customers.”
Current trading has remained challenging and sales for the 32 weeks to April 12 were ahead 0.8% but down 1% like-for-like. Gross margin for the period was sown 10 basis points.
Templeman added: “We expect the trading environment to remain challenging so we will continue to focus on the areas of our business that are within our control; making further improvements to our own bought products and providing customers with a pleasing shopping experience.”
Debenhams said it would open five department stores in 2008/2009 including a flagship in White City and a store in Liverpool. However Debenhams said it had cancelled refurbishments of some of its stores in the second half to avoid disruption to sales in the difficult trading climate. Just three stores will be refurbished in the remainder of the year.