Beast from the East slashes big retailer’s profits

Debenhams  in Commercial Road, Portsmouth
Debenhams in Commercial Road, Portsmouth

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THE Beast from the East is the reason for a drop of nearly 85 per cent in half year profits, according to the Debenhams chief executive.

The clothes retailer said its bottom line pre-tax profits fell from £87.8m to £13.5m after around 100 stores were forced to temporarily close due to the weather.

Debenhams, which has stores in Commercial Road and Palmerston Road in Portsmouth, as well as one in Fareham Shopping Centre, also blamed a ‘disappointing Christmas season’ and a ‘challenging UK market background’ for the drop.

Chief executive Sergio Bucher said: ‘It has not been an easy first half and the extreme weather in the final week of the half had a material impact on our results.

‘But I am hugely encouraged by the progress we are making to transform Debenhams for our customers.

‘We are holding share in a difficult fashion market, and in other categories such as furniture, exciting new partnerships have the potential to transform our offer. We approach the remainder of the year mindful of the very challenging market conditions, but with confidence that we have a strong team and the right plan to navigate them and return Debenhams to profitablegrowth.’

While Debenhams appeared to struggle during the bad weather, Cascades centre manager Andrew Philip also noticed a dip in traffic. He said: ‘Naturally the city centre was quieter on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 March, as people from across Portsmouth experienced a few rare snow days.

‘We were back trading as normal on the Saturday.’

The retail sector has struggled in the past year, as New Look, Toys R Us, Maplin have faced either administration or multiple store closures.

Bargain booze, a store owned by Convivality also faced administration but is now set for a £7m buyout from Bestway.