Debenhams has claimed it is winning market share from rivals as it posted a small rise in sales over the key Christmas trading period that was hit by December's snow.
Chief Executive Rob Templeman said he was pleased with the department store group's Christmas performance given the adverse weather that gripped the nation last month but would not commit to forecasting underlying sales growth for the balance of the firm's year to end-August 2011.
"What we've got to see is how consumer sentiment unfolds over the next six to eight weeks, then we'll be in a better position to talk about how we think the future lies," he said.
Many retailers fear the £81bn of spending cuts announced by the government, as well as tax rises, a slowing housing market and hikes in transport and fuel costs will hit consumer demand in the months ahead.
Debenhams, which trades from 167 stores in Britain, Ireland and Denmark, and about 60 franchised outlets in 23 countries, said sales at stores open over a year increased 0.3 percent including VAT sales tax in the 19 weeks to 8 January.
The firm said December's snow impacted like-for-like sales by 2.5-3.0 per cent, or about £30m.
It said gross transaction value increased 4.2 per cent over the period, with gross margin ahead of the previous year and market share won in men's, children's and women's clothing.
City A.M. Reporter