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Debenhams half-year e-sales top £50 million

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Debenhams, the UK’s second largest department store group, today reported an 85.9% lift in multichannel sales to £50.6 million in the first half of its financial year.

The retailer, which launched a new look website in November 2009, sees up to 1.5m online visitors a week. It’s growth that’s being built on. Since the end of the half-year Debenhams has introduced new features including collect-in-store and international delivery to seven countries.

Collect-from-store was introduced in March and today Debenhams revealed that the service accounted for 22% of multichannel orders in the first month of operation.

In addition, now delivers to seven international destinations – it now sends to France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and United States for delivery in 10-14 working days. Charges start at £7. As yet, said Debenhams in today’s update, the new destinations are “generating incremental business even though the service has yet to be marketed.”

The company statement said: “Developing a true multi-channel business – rather than just a ‘bricks-and-mortar retailer with a website’ – is an important strategic aim. The focus is around employing technology to increase customer choice and to widen availability and ranging.”

The update came in half-year results that showed a like-for-like rise in sales of 0.3%. Profits before tax and exceptional items rose 17.9% to £120.5m in the 26 weeks to February 27, from £102.2m at the same time in the previous year. Turnover rose 11.6% to £1.2bn, from £1.1bn last time.

Developments included four new store openings as well as the acquisition of Danish department store chain Magasin du Nord.

Rob Templeman, Debenhams chief executive, said: “We believe the work we have done to improve our own bought ranges, including Designers at Debenhams, both in terms of product design, quality and value and increasing the own bought mix, will continue to find favour with customers and provide a solid platform for margin expansion and market share growth.”

Our view: It’s heartening to see such immediate results from multichannel development as Debenhams illustrates here. In the first month that collect-from-store was offered, the service immediately accounted for 22% of orders, a significant chunk. It’s perhaps contrarian logic that a service that requires online customers to go to the store should prove so popular – but it seems, this is what works for customers, and retailer after retailer has shown that offering the choice also works for them.

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