Debenhams Plc (LON:DEB) sees 5% increase in Christmas sales.
Debenhams (LSE: DEB) released its interim management statement this morning -- and the revelation that the retailer saw its best ever December, with like-for-like sales over the five weeks to 5 January 2013 increasing 5%.
Over the 18-week period, group like-for-like sales were up 2.9%, while gross transactions rose 3.5%. Gross margin for the year is expected to be 10 basis points higher than last year, rather than 20 basis points, due to an increase in promotional activity in the run-up to Christmas as "customers looking for bargains ahead of Christmas as well as in the traditional sale period". This included Debenhams' first Christmas brand advertising campaign for six years.
In line with the rest of the high street, online sales proved one of the company's strongest performers, as online sales in the 18 weeks increased by 39% and accounted for 12.6% of total sales, in contrast to 9.3% in the previous financial year.
Chief executive Michael Sharp commented:
"I am pleased with our performance in the first four months of our financial year. The trading environment was extremely challenging but we focused on meeting the needs of our customers and executing the four pillars of our strategy. I would like to thank the whole of the Debenhams team for their tremendous efforts in delivering this performance.
"We continue to believe that whilst consumers have become acclimatised to the new economic reality, we don't anticipate a significant change in consumer confidence in the remainder of the year. We remain committed to prudent investment in key areas of the business to deliver long-term sustainable growth as well as driving shareholder value."
In other news for the company, this morning saw the announcement of Stephen Ingham joining as a non-executive director from Michael Page, with Debenhams chairman Nigel Northridge describing the appointment as "a great addition to the board", citing his experience of building an international business.
With the likes of Next and Dixons improving their online presence as well, you might think that we're seeing a revival of the British high street. Whether you choose to back your opinions in the stock market is, of course, up to you, but it's important to do your own research further into the matter.
In fact, the share price dropped off over 6% this morning. Motley Fool Share Advisor senior analyst Nate Weisshaar will be bringing you a special video very soon explaining the cause of this, so keep your eyes peeled...
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> Sam does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.