Debenhams like-for-like sales fall 0.2 percent in third quarter
LONDON – Debenhams, Britain’s second-largest department store group, reported a 0.2 percent fall in like-for-like sales in the 15 weeks to June 11, its fiscal third quarter, saying trading conditions had become more uncertain, particularly in clothing.
But the group, which trails John Lewis by annual revenue, said that with the help of cost cuts it still expected profit for the year to be within the range of market forecasts.
Analysts on average expect Debenhams to report pretax profit of 119 million pounds ($174.8 million), according to Reuters data.
The third quarter result is a slowdown from growth of 1.1 percent for the first half, but is within the range of flat to down 1 percent forecast by analysts.
The third-quarter update is the last under chief executive Michael Sharp, who steps down on Friday after five years.
Last month Debenhams named Amazon (AMZN.O) executive Sergio Bucher as its new chief executive.
Sharp said he was leaving the business in the hands of a very strong management team.
“Our strategy remains unchanged, with further progress in driving our non-clothing mix, continuing to improve service for multi-channel customers, and offering a wider choice of products and services in under-optimised space,” he said on Wednesday.
Under Sharp’s leadership, Debenhams built its non-clothing categories, such as beauty, and reduced its reliance on discounting. It also added concessions in under-used store space, built up its online service and expanded abroad.
However, the firm has seen little sales or profit growth in recent years, while its shares are well down on their November 2012 peak of 124 pence.
The stock, down 20 percent over the last year, closed on Tuesday at 74.25 pence, valuing the business at almost 900 million pounds. -Reuters