LONDON–Debenhams, Britain’s No. 2 department store group, posted record Christmas sales, driven by a jump in online trade and a step-up in promotions.
The group said on Tuesday sales at stores open over a year, rose 5 percent in the five weeks to Jan. 5, with like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to Jan. 5 — a big chunk of the firm’s fiscal first half — up 2.9 percent. That compares to analysts’ consensus forecast for the first half to end-February of an increase of 2 percent. The growth was boosted by strong demand online, with sales over the 18 weeks up 39 percent, ahead of the firm’s expectations. However it also had to rely on promotions to draw in the customers. Debenhams said the overall market had seen more promotions than the prior year which resulted in some increase in its own promotional activity in the run-up to Christmas. As a result, it now expects gross margin for the 2012-13 year to be 10 basis points higher than last year rather than 20 basis points previously guided.