Debenhams boosted by cross-border shopping

THE large numbers of Irish shoppers heading north for their shopping requirements has helped boost first half profits at British department store operator, Debenhams by nearly 11%.

The company — which entered the Irish market through its acquisition of the Roches Stores business three years ago — yesterday announced a 10.7% year-on-year rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £104.2 million (e116.7m).

Revenue for the six months to the end of February amounted to £1.31 billion — a 0.3% increase on the same period last year. Operating profit, meanwhile, was up by just under 6% at £134.7m.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman said that while management remained cautious about the outlook for consumer confidence for the remainder of this year, the second half of the company’s financial year has started well.

“The increase in profitability in the first half is a considerable achievement given the difficult trading conditions across the retail sector,” he added.

Part of that profit rise came on the back of a good performance in the Irish market — particularly in Northern Ireland, where performance was boosted by the number of shoppers from down here looking to avail of the strong euro and smaller VAT rate.

While yesterday’s interim statement from Debenhams said that there was little variation across its business, on a regional basis, on a performance level, it added: “Northern Ireland performed strongly as shoppers in the Republic take advantage of the strength of the euro. Conversely, there are signs of weakening in the Republic in line with the severe economic downturn being experienced in that market.”

Retail Ireland is upping its lobbying of the Government over some kind of reduction in the 21.5% VAT rate here — after both the recent emergency budget here failed to move it and this week’s budget in Britain kept that country’s rate at 15%; a major carrot to Irish shoppers looking to avail of cheaper deals outside of the Republic.


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