Poor weather hit Debenhams hard in H1, with LFL sales down -2.2% overall, and a final trading week in which extreme weather conditions prompted the temporary closure of almost 100 stores during the retailer's New Season Spectacular – which itself is estimated to have reduced LFL by around -1.0% for the half.
Pre-tax profits dropped by -84.6% to £13.5m, in part due to the retailer's redesign strategy.
More positively, the retailer, which announced its interim results for the 26 weeks to 3rd March 2018 this morning, cites digital growth of +9.7%, plus encouraging results from its new store format trials.
CEO Sergio Bucher comments: "The UK retail environment is undergoing profound change, and with the help of some important new senior hires, we are moving faster and working harder than ever to ensure Debenhams is well placed to outperform in this new retail world. We expect no help from the external environment, so we are focused on delivering our Debenhams Redesigned strategy, aiming to mitigate difficult trading conditions through self-help initiatives.
"It has not been an easy first half and the extreme weather in the final week of the half had a material impact on our results. But I am hugely encouraged by the progress we are making to transform Debenhams for our customers. Our digital growth continues to outpace the market while our store in Stevenage was recently named best new store at the Retail Week Awards.
"We are holding share in a difficult fashion market, and in other categories such as furniture, exciting new partnerships have the potential to transform our offer. We approach the remainder of the year mindful of the very challenging market conditions, but with confidence that we have a strong team and the right plan to navigate them and return Debenhams to profitable growth."
In the report, Debenhams describes its own-bought furniture business as "loss making and sub-scale", noting that it intends to progressively phase out the category, focusing on its core strength in home accessories and soft furnishings whilst developing partnerships with retailers such as Maisons du Monde and Swoon, which it started working with in H1.