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Debenhams' red coat tops Christmas purchases

A Jonathan Saunders coat featured in Debenhams’ Christmas campaign sold out on the back of its first TV ad in six years.

The department store chain today revealed like-for-like sales in the five weeks to January 5 were up 5% - the department store’s highest ever figures for December - highlighting womenswear as a strong performer.

Debenhams produced its first Christmas TV ad for six years with a red Jonathan Saunders/Edition coat selling out after being seen on screens.

Chief executive Michael Sharp said: “It was the fastest selling coat we ever had. It uplifted in sales by 400% on the day the advertising launched.”

Sharp said occasionwear and partywear sold strongly with dresses from Jenny Packham and Julien MacDonald popular options alongside lingerie, particularly ranges from Janet Reger.

Onesies, this year’s surprise bestseller across the high street, also sold out at Debenhams with Sharp calling the sales “first class”.

Speaking generally about the festive performance Sharp said: “I’m pleased with our performance. We’ve achieved good sales growth in what was an extremely challenging environment.”

Over the Christmas period Debenhams increased its promotional activity by two days on last year, however Sharp said this was not any big change. “It was the right thing to do because it drove good sales growth,” he added.

As a result of the added promotions Debenhams has downgraded its guidance on gross profits for the period from 10 basis points above last year to 20bps. “This is hardly a disaster,” said analyst Nick Bubb.

Bubb added: “Today’s update looks good on the face of it, with impressive 5.0% like-for-like sales growth for the 5 weeks to Jan 5th, but October and November must have been tough, as for the full 14 week period like-for-like sales were only up by 2.9%.”

Sharp said online sales were above expectations with mobiles accounting for 36% of all online sales. Online sales accounted for 12.6% of total sales at Debenhams compared to 9.3% last year.

In the next year Debenhams will continue its store revamp programme with five stores set to be refurbished this month. Debenhams’ Oxford Street branch will undergo a “major modernisation” as well. “Later this month the scaffolding will go up around Oxford Street as we start the transformation into a true company flagship,” said Sharp.

As part of this revamp the department store will add a fifth floor of trading space. Sharp said: “We expect to see some disruption.”

As a result of this disruption and of a head office move starting in April broker Panmure Gordon & Co has reduced its profit before tax forecast from £168.9m to £166.4m.m

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