Debenhams' future remains perilous as Christmas sales tumble

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 10 Jan 2019

Debenhams has been dealt a fresh blow as it saw Christmas sales tumble during a volatile few months on the high street.

The future of the Hull and Scunthorpe stores were cast into doubt last year when it was announced Debenhams was to close 50 branches across the country.

The retail giant has now revealed like-for-like sales in the six weeks up to January 5 were down 3.4 per cent, as shoppers increasingly turn their back on the high street.

Debenhams also has a branch in Flemingate shopping centre in Beverley.

Debenhams in Hull

Despite the sales slump over the festive period, its chief executive said the results were “the best possible outcome.”

Sergio Bucher said: "We responded to a significant increase in promotional activity in the market, particularly in key seasonal categories, in order to remain competitive for our customers.

"We have taken decisive steps to maintain rigorous cost and capital discipline, and I am grateful to my colleagues for their hard work as we maintain a rapid pace of change."

Debenhams did however defy predictions that it would issue a profit warning over the period.

Digital sales rose 6 per cent in the period, despite a slower start to the peak shopping season.

The company warned that the UK trading environment is still "volatile", with savvy consumers actively seeking out discounts.

Christmas shoppers at Flemingate in Beverley (La Lumiere)

Debenhams has embarked on a major strategic shift, including shutting 50 branches and the launch of a new store design concept.

The retailer was not the only big name to report poor Christmas trading.

Marks & Spencer saw sales dip by 2.2 per cent in the 13 weeks up to December 29, with Mothercare – which has a branch at the Kingston Retail Park – reporting a huge 11.4 per cent sales tumble.

In better news, supermarket giant Tesco bucked what was overall a gloomy trend for Christmas sales.

The UK’s biggest supermarket saw like-for-like Christmas sales rise by 2.2 per cent.

Watch: Debenhams announces 50 store closures

In a period of immense challenge for the high street, many big names would have been hoping Christmas brought with it some welcome relief.

More many though, 2019 will bring fresh challenges, with more details over the future of Debenhams yet to be revealed.

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