STRONG womenswear sales boosted revenues at Debenhams in the first half of the year and the retailer is optimistic that cotton prices have now peaked.
The department store chain, which has 167 UK and Irish shops, bucked the downward trend on the high street by announcing a 4.5% hike in pre-tax profits to £129.2m before exceptionals in the six months to February 26.
It is also reintroducing the dividend after reducing its debt by £165.2m to £351.6m and will make an interim 1p a share payment.
Same store sales were flat but the group benefited from sales of designer products after bolstering the Designers at Debenhams portfolio with Julien Macdonald’s Diamond line and the extension of the Japer Conran J Jeans line into menswear.
In the Newcastle store, which opened last year, the best-selling Diamond line was a £55 leopard print dress. Across the group, cosmetics and perfumes were among the best performers.
Debenhams increased its market share from 26.8% to 28.1%.
Statistics from the Newcastle store show that YSL Touch Eclait was the best-selling beauty product and the shop sells 50 pairs of false eyelashes a week and shifts almost 500 pairs of shoes and 250 handbags a week.
Nationally, Debenham’s online sales leapt by 82.4%, helped by the introduction of the a new iPhone app linked to the Debenhams website.
Chief executive Rob Templeman, who is stepping down in September after eight years, said: “The trading environment has been difficult but our focus on profit and cash generation has continued to deliver returns.
“Debenhams has now produced six consecutive halves of pre-tax profit growth.”
The business issued the figures against a backdrop of profit warnings from fellow high street traders.