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Debenhams sees festive sales slide but profits on track

14 January 2019

He said in a statement: "It has been a great privilege to get to know my Debenhams colleagues over the past three years". The stalwart of British shopping districts, which has struggled to keep pace with Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers, said discounting will likely hurt its gross margin in the first half, following three profit warnings previous year.

Chief executive Sergio Bucher was also not re-elected, receiving 44.15 per cent of shareholder votes as a result of the same two major shareholders. Cheshire joined the board in January 2016 and was appointed chairman in April 2016.

The discounter saw a 33% uplift in sales of its premium Deluxe range over the six weeks to December 30, with bestsellers including brioche burger buns and luxury mince pies. It is closing up to 50 of its stores and is seeking new finance.

Ashley, who owns almost 30% of Debenhams shares through Sports Direct, teamed up with the billionaire owner of Milestone Resources, Micky Jagtiani, who has a 7% stake, to vote the two directors off the board at an annual general meeting on Thursday night.

A total of 56% of shares voted were against the re-election of both directors. Debenhams said it has "full confidence in Sergio and in the management's plan to reshape the business".

Sports Direct bought House of Fraser out of administration for 90 million pounds ($117 million) a year ago.

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"As a result, the board and Sergio have agreed that he should continue as CEO of Debenhams", it added.

The department store group, which is pushing ahead with a major restructuring programme, saw like-for-like sales fall 3.4 per cent in the six weeks to 5 January, weighed down by its core United Kingdom market where sales were 3.6 per cent lower.

Duddy said "I recognise that individual shareholders have wished to register their dissatisfaction".

However, the firm said it remained on track to deliver on profit expectations defying City predictions that it would issue a fresh earnings alert. The votes came after Debenhams turned down a 40 million-pound ($51.3 million) loan offer from Ashley.

Chairman, Ian Cheshire, stepped down immediately and was temporarily replaced by Terry Duddy, the senior independent director. The company said it still expected to meet profit targets - but only after £30m of additional cost savings, starting with a hiring freeze at its head office and the earlier than planned closure of its Lodge Farm distribution centre in Northamptonshire. Those talks were "constructive", he said.

Debenhams sees festive sales slide but profits on track