Debenhams raises online ambitions after a strong year

Debenhams made good progress in 2012 despite a difficult market, the company said today as it announced its results for the year to September 1.

Debenhams raises online ambitions after a strong year

Both total sales, at £2,708.0m, and UK sales, at £2,204.6m, were up 2.6%, with group like-for-like sales including VAT up 2.3%. Group operating profit remained unchanged at £175.0m but pre-tax profit rose 4.2% to £158.3m.

By the end of the year the Debenhams brand was trading from 239 stores across 28 countries and online in 67 countries. The UK store portfolio stood at 154 stores at the end of the year, which included two new openings during the year, adding 78,000sq ft of trading space. One further store has opened since the year end.

The department store retailer said the new store pipeline now stands at 17 stores over the next five years, which could bring in over £150m of sales. ·

Online sales for the group as a whole grew by 39.8% to £250.6m in 2012, well ahead of market growth in the UK of around 13%. Debenhams said its confidence in its ability to realise its multi-channel ambitions had led it to increase its medium-term target for online sales from £500m to £600m. Debenhams is now the eleventh biggest UK online retailer by traffic volume.

Free wi-fi became available in all UK stores in May, and boosted extremely strong growth in mobile – visits were up 200% and iPad app visits by over 500%.

Commenting on the results, chief executive Michael Sharp said: “We have made good progress in 2012, achieving higher sales and earnings growth despite a very difficult market. I believe the strong sales momentum we achieved in the second half of 2012 is clear evidence that our strategy to build a leading international, multi-channel brand is working and this has prompted us to be more ambitious with our medium-term targets for the growth of our online and international operations.”

He said he believed that customers were now “acclimatised to the new economic reality. Whilst we don’t anticipate a significant change in the economic environment in 2013, we expect to make further progress during the year.”

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