Britain's Debenhams, ASOS buck retail gloom

Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:45am EDT
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By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers Debenhams (DEB.L: Quote) and ASOS (ASOS.L: Quote) laid out plans to deliver future growth overseas as their rising profits showed their resilience to weaker home market conditions.

Both Debenhams, Britain's No. 2 department store group, and ASOS, the fast-growing online fashion retailer, have bucked the gloomy trend in the sector, dogged by weak consumer confidence.

Shares in Debenhams, up 59 percent over the last year, rose 6 percent after it increased its target for online sales to 600 million pounds ($961.8 million) from 500 million through the next three to five years.

The group also upped its target for overseas franchise stores from 130 to 150, with a focus on new openings in the Middle East and Asia.

Debenhams currently trades from about 170 stores in Britain, Ireland and Denmark, and 71 overseas franchise stores.

The group, which ranks behind rival John Lewis JLP.UL in terms of annual sales, also posted a 4.2 percent increase in full-year pretax profit to 158.3 million pounds, against a forecast 157.5 million, driven by its breadth of products, appeal to a range of customers and multiple routes to market.

Yet the company did not see any general upturn in the sector, where Argos parent Home Retail HOME.L for example has just posted an 18 percent drop in first-half underlying pretax profit and is closing stores.

"We've seen no significant change in consumer confidence in the last six to nine months and customers are acclimatizing to what life is like in these challenging economic times," said Chief Executive Michael Sharp.   Continued...

Pedestrians walk past the Debenhams store on Oxford Street, in central London October 19, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning