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Christmas sales flat at Debenhams

Like-for-like sales at department store chain Debenhams were up 0.1% over the 18 weeks to January 2, 2010, and the retailer said the trading outlook remains uncertain.

Total sales over the 18-week period were up 1.6% and for the second year in succession Debenhams notched up an increase in pre-tax profit over the Christmas period.

The slight like-for-like sales increase of 0.1% included the impact of lower sales densities on the back of a move in strategy away from concessions, towards own-bought product. The change in strategy has resulted in a 1.5% reduction in like-for-like sales since the start of the financial year.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman said: “Looking forward, with the rise in VAT and a general election pending, the consumer environment remains uncertain and difficult to predict.”

Debenhams said in its interim update that gross margin year-to-date had been “particularly pleasing” and had improved significantly against the year before.

Following the recent refit of Debenhams Cardiff, the retailer said it will accelerate its store refit programme. This investment, along with the acquisition of Danish retailer chain Magasin du Nord, will push up Debenhams’ capital expenditure guidance to about £115m.

Debenhams bought Magasin du Nord in November last year and said it was pleased with the the way the six-store Danish chain traded over Christmas.

During the 18-week period three new Desire by Debenhams stores were opened in Kidderminster, Monks Cross and Witney. Three new department stores will open this year in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Carmarthen and Bury.

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