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Debs to bank on Designer ranges

Debenhams will focus on its “power” Designers at Deben-hams ranges to help it beat the tough trading environment.
The department store chain’s like-for-like sales fell 0.7% for the 26 weeks to March 1, but it said it had scored market share gains in all major clothing categories.

Chief executive Rob Temple-man said the size of the Julien Macdonald collection would double for autumn and that other designers including Betty Jackson, John Rocha and Jasper Conran would also have expanded ranges.

“We’ve improved the product with our designers in terms of quality and design and it represents good value,” said Temple-man. “That has helped improve our market share. We will want to make a lot more of our power designers going forward.”

Own-brand sales over the period 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 made particularly strong gains in occasionwear and formalwear.

Pre-tax profit fell back to £94.1 million against £107.4m for the same time last year.

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 down 10 basis points. Templeman said he was pleased with performance considering the background of poor retail trading but expected the difficult environment to continue.

“We’ve seen the British Retail Consortium figures saying that clothing retail is the worst for eight years,” he said. “Trade is volatile. We must concentrate on what we can control and keep trying to gain market share.”

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