Debenhams posts stronger than expected Christmas sales

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Debenhams has reported higher than expected sales in the 19 weeks to 9 January, boosted by strong Christmas trading and growth in online shopping.

Like-for-like sales rose by 1.9% - much stronger than the 0.3% growth analysts had been expecting.

Debenhams said online sales rose 12.1%, due to increased consumer confidence in its ability to deliver goods on time.

It said sales over the Christmas week hit a record.

Shares in Debenhams soared following the trading update, closing up more than 15% at 76.50p.

Chief executive Michael Sharp, who is due to leave later this year, said: "This performance is evidence that our strategy is working with our customers finding our mix of products and brands both compelling and great value for money."

For the nine weeks to 9 January, like-for-like sales rose by 1.8%.

Debenhams said there were fewer discounts and tight control of clothing stock, such as winter coats, to reflect unseasonal weather conditions.

Last week clothing retailer Next reported disappointing sales in the pre-Christmas period saying unusually warm weather was partly to blame.

Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show retail spending in the three months to December compared with a year earlier was relatively weak, as many stores competed to offer discounts.

The BRC said spending rose by 0.9% in the quarter from a year earlier, which it described as "disappointing".

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