Debenhams (UK)

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Debenhams is the UK's second largest department store operator (after John Lewis), specialising in affordable designer fashion as well as home furnishings, beauty products and household goods. The group has experienced something of a rollercoaster ride in recent years. During the 1990s, a new management team installed by what was then Burton Group successfully reinvented what had been one of the country's most staid and old fashioned retail chains. Spun off as an independent company, Debenhams' success continued during the early 2000s under new chief executive Belinda Earl, before it fell prey to private equity buyers in 2003. Performance has been less sure-footed since then, especially after the group went public again in 2006. Yet, despite the current challenging market, Debenhams appears to have turned the corner since late 2007, stealing market share even from traditional rivals such as Marks & Spencer before suffering a new set of problems towards the end of 2013.

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Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Jan 2014: A number of UK retailers suffered a poor or worse Christmas, with competition heightened and profitability severely dented by heavy discounting. In a sign of growing desperation, several stores began their seasonal sales even before Christmas Day, prompting what has been described as a "sea of red" on the High Street. British department store Debenhams was first out of the gates with bad news, announcing its second profit warning in a year. Like-for-like (LFL) sales were marginally higher than the year ago period, but profits were down, as gains from online shopping failed to offset an in-store slump. Trading rival John Lewis had completely the opposite experience, with combined sales up over 7% in the five weeks up to the end of December. As with Debenhams, the strongest gains were online, with ecommerce jumping almost 23% year on year, compared to a gain of just 1% in-store. There was a similar story at another department store operator, House Of Fraser, which claimed the best Christmas in its history as a result of a near 58% leap in online business, and total LFL up over 7%. 

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