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Debenhams will not benefit from BHS demise, says CEO

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp said the department store chain will not benefit from increased sales following the demise of BHS.

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp

The outgoing retail boss said there was not a big crossover between BHS and Debenhams’ shoppers.

“It’s impossible to say if we have seen any impact or not so far as the market has been so challenging and volatile. That said, if you look at the customer data we have a very low cross-shop between Debenhams and BHS shoppers. I wouldn’t expect it to change our performance at all.”

He added: “It’s so unfortunate what happened to BHS. No retailer likes to see any other retail business fail and I wish all the staff all the best.”

However, Debenhams announced this morning that it has signed Claire’s, a former BHS concession, to open concessions in its stores later this year.

Debenhams will roll out further concessions for Bestseller-owned brands Jack & Jones and Only before Christmas, following a successful trial last year. The business will also add to its five Monsoon concessions before Christmas.

Sharp said the nine Sports Direct concessions in operation in Debenhams stores were “performing well”.

“We were underdeveloped in that area so that relationship is working well,” he added, but said there were no plans to open further Sports Direct concessions this year, although more should open “over time”.

Debenhams’ group like-for-like sales edged up just 0.2% for the 15 weeks to June 11, as “weak trade” hit the department store.

Sharp said Debenhams was “holding its own” despite the tough trading conditions, which he attributed to factors including the earlier timing of Easter and the impending vote on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

“You would have to be living on Planet Zog not to see the huge amount of uncertainty in the marketplace,” he said.

“I can’t speculate on how much of that is attributable to Brexit as there have been timing changes with Easter, Mothers Day and Fathers Day, so that has made trading difficult to measure, but the referendum on the European Union has created a significant amount of uncertainty. That along with a weaker clothing market have all collided to create this current volatile market.”

He added that he was confident he was leaving Debenhams in “safe hands” following the appointment of Sergio Bucher, currently vice president of Amazon’s fashion division in Europe, as his successor. Bucher will join the retailer in October. 


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