Debenhams warns on profits as womenswear sales fall

Department store chain Debenhams revealed falling sales as it said demand for clothes had been weak amid "uncertain trading conditions".

The group posted a 1.6% fall in like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to June 11 with currency movements stripped out, and warned that its profit margins would be lower than expected as it slashed prices to shift stock.

Debenhams said it had used "tactical" discounting after seeing weaker sales of womenswear since the new year, but added that it remained on track with an overall move to cut down on promotions and special offers.

Outgoing chief executive Michael Sharp said: "In response to more uncertain trading conditions in this period, particularly in clothing, we have focused on managing stock and margins and generating cash."

The sales fall marks a sharp reversal of the 2.4% rise seen in the previous six months and follows a difficult spring for high street clothing shops, which resorted to discounting after a cold early spring weather hit womenswear sales.