If anything, the flat results from Debenhams underline the choppy nature of the current trading environment which continues to be buffeted around by the vagaries of the British weather. Against this backdrop it has been challenging for many retailers, and especially those exposed to fashion, to generate consistent uplifts in trade.
There is an argument, however, that the traditional tactic of discounting to sell through "unseasonal" stock is a less potent weapon for Debenhams during this time than it is for other players, if only because Debenhams’ promotional activity is so ubiquitous throughout the year.
That noted, Debenhams overall sales were nudged into positive territory largely thanks to the strength of its spring and summer collections. These were allied with a strong marketing campaign showcasing its various designers and a variety of ‘hero’ products, such as an ombre snake print maxi dress from Butterfly by Matthew Williamson.
Product innovation across its range of exclusive brands is one of Debenhams’ key strengths and has undoubtedly helped it to grab market share across a number of categories. Looking ahead, we are encouraged by the pipeline for new range development which includes the signing of tailor Patrick Grant who will launch a new menswear range, Hammond & Co, in AW13.
Another area of strength for Debenhams is its multichannel proposition. Across the period online sales grew by 40 per cent with mobile visits growing exponentially. Investment in the service, which will enable premium next day delivery by September, will enable further growth and comes just in time for the crucial Christmas trading period.
We remain positive about international expansion, especially on the franchise front where store opening remains strong into 2014. This, allied with Debenhams’ multichannel proposition, provides a very opportunity for future growth.