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Debenhams kicks off retail price war

Debenhams yesterday announced it will be slashing &pound;250m off prices in a four-day sale this week, in a move which it predicts will spark a price war similar to the frenzied discounting seen last Christmas.<br /><br />Rival Marks &amp; Spencer&rsquo;s executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose, said earlier this month he did not expect a repeat of the &ldquo;blanket type&rdquo; promotional activity of last Christmas on the high street and intended to trade at full price up to Christmas Day.<br /><br />But Debenhams believes that by slashing the prices this week on all its items, including its designer ranges, it will force the hand of other bell-wether retailers to compete. Debenhams held two extended sales in the run up to last Christmas, which forced its retail rivals to run promotions. Chief executive Rob Templeman said last month he expected this festive season to feature as many promotions as last year. <br /><br />Debenhams&rsquo; deputy chief executive Michael Sharp said: &ldquo;Customers everywhere continue to feel the pinch in this recession. In fact many feel that there still is no light at the end of the tunnel. They want us to reduce prices now, so that&rsquo;s what our Christmas Spectacular will do.&rdquo;<br /><br />Debenhams follows the lead of the warring big four supermarkets who are pushing through a total &pound;400m of reductions over the festive period.<br /><br />Debenhams&rsquo; move to take the price war back to the high street comes as research group Verdict forecasts Christmas retail spending will be down year-on-year for the first time since records began in 1989. Verdict said at least one in three consumers intends to cut back on their spending this Christmas.<br /><br />But despite the high growth recorded by online retailers including Amazon, Asos and Net-a-Porter, more than half of shoppers will do the majority of their Christmas shopping on the high street, compared to only 28.2 per cent online, according to a new survey by research body Retail Eyes.