High street giants Marks & Spencer and Debenhams report falling Christmas sales in the run up to plans to close dozens of stores - Kent Online

Two high street giants both reported a decrease in sales in the run-up to Christmas, prior to plans to close a number of stores.

Wrestling retailer Debenhams announced this morning in its latest trade report that like-for-like sales fell by 3.4% in the six weeks to January 5, in what The British Retail Consortium described as the worst festive period of a decade.

The department store accused a "volatile" trading environment for the decline, claiming that customers were looking for promotions during their winter shopping.

Debenhams in Ashford
Debenhams in Ashford

It's a new start for the company, which unveiled in October that it planned to close 50 stores in the next three to five years, meaning jobs could be at risk in Ashford, Canterbury, Chatham, Folkestone, Gravesend, and Westwood Cross.

Chief executive Sergio Bucher said: "We have worked hard to deliver the best possible results in very uncertain times for retailers.

"We have responded to a significant increase in promotional activities in the market, particularly in the most important seasonal categories, in order to remain competitive for our customers.

"We have taken decisive steps to maintain rigorous costs and capital discipline and I am grateful to my colleagues for their hard work because we maintain a rapid pace of change.

"In order to ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future, we need a strong customer proposal, an enhanced balance sheet and a transformed retail offer.

"We have a robust plan to realize this and although there is still a lot of work to be done, the performance of our redesigned stores above peak times and the ongoing outperformance in digital reinforce our conviction that we are taking the right steps for the future of the future. to protect company. "

In the meantime, Marks & Spencer also had a difficult end of the year in both the Food and Clothing and Home divisions, with a 2.2% drop in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 29 December.

Marks & Spencer in Maidstone. Image: Bob Kitchin "data-root =" / _ media / img / "data-path =" USV9RF9IY7UF0W79K2HG.jpg "data-ar =" 1.51
Marks & Spencer in Maidstone. Image: Bob Kitchin

Employees across the country have also received no certainty about their future, as it is still unclear whether shops in Canterbury, Westwood Cross, Ashford, Whitstable, Sittingbourne, Hempstead Valley and Maidstone are among the 100 bosses who plan the next four close.

The retailer accused the decline of a "challenging" November after noting that customers had "responded well" to their Christmas beaches and campaign.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: "Against the background of well-published difficult market conditions, our performance remained stable throughout the period.

"Our Food activities were successfully traded during Christmas, while customers responded to improved value, and our transformation program is on schedule.

"The combination of reducing consumer confidence, mild weather, Black Friday and widespread discounts by our competitors made November a very challenging trading period.

"However, on the whole our 13-week performance was stable with some early encouraging signs."