Retailer’s profit woes are ‘company specific’

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DEPARTMENT store retailer Debenhams blamed a tough trading environment and bad weather for its poor performance over Christmas, but appears to have fared far worse than rivals who faced similar challenges.

Trading updates from John Lewis, which like Debenhams has an outlet in Southsea’s Palmerston Road, showed the company broke sales records.

It had a 6.9-per-cent improvement in like-for-like sales in the five weeks to December 28.

The Debenhams group, which also has stores in Portsmouth’s Commercial Road and in Fareham, said a last-minute sales surge had failed to materialise, in contrast to the late rush reported by its competitors.

Debenhams’ paper-thin like-for-like sales increase of just 0.1 per cent in the 17 weeks to December 28 was wiped out by the impact of discounting, leaving it to warn of a 26-per-cent slide in first-half profits.

The poor performance also meant further offers would be needed over January and February to clear stock.

Analysts at Numis said: ‘We believe that Debenhams’s major issues are more company specific.’