The store posted half-year profits before tax and exceptional items of £123.6m – a rise of 18.6 per cent.
The chain is refurbishing stores as part of its move away from concessions towards more profitable own-brand ranges, including Jasper Conran and Betty Jackson for its Designers at Debenhams lines.
The company said the biggest revamp in its 232-year history had held back sales, which only rose by 0.3 per cent in stores open a year.
Meanwhile Debenhams’ net debt fell to £511.5m from £927.2m a year ago, according to the figures for the 26 weeks to 27 February.
The UK’s second-largest department store behind Marks & Spencer said it expected the trading environment to be “broadly neutral” in the second-half of the year.
Chief executive Rob Templeman said: “Throughout the last 18 months of recession, Debenhams has consistently achieved growth in sales, margins and trading profits. We made further progress in delivering our strategy in the first half and are pleased with our performance.”
The chain’s 0.3 per cent rise in like-for-like sales contrasts with more upbeat figures from the British Retail Consortium showing that underlying sales on the high street rose by 4.4 per cent in the year to March.
Debenhams has opened four new stores in the past six months, and operates 164 stores in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Denmark.
FAST FACTS | DEBENHAMS
• The company has been in business for 232 years and was set up by Messrs Flint and Clark.
• Debenhams has 154 stores in the UK with 11m sq ft of trading space.
• It has franchise stores in 17 other countries.