Department store group Debenhams plans to increase UK store numbers from 99 to 150 within the next 10 years.

The expansion plan is part of a drive to attract 5 million new customers over the next five years, which would take customer numbers to 18 million.

‘We want to fill in the larger markets where we aren’t currently represented, and we have already signed for a number of sites. There will be 111 stores by 2006, and we’re planning to have 120 open within five years,’ said a spokeswoman.

Internationally, Debenhams has just opened two more franchised shops - in Stockholm and Jeddah - and plans to have 30 overseas stores in five years’ time.

Debenhams revealed its plans on Tuesday, when it announced preliminary pre-tax profit up 5.1 per cent to£153.6 million on sales also up 5.1 per cent to£1.69 billion. Like-for-like sales growth was 4.8 per cent.

‘The figures were better than one might have expected, particularly given recent results from other retailers such as Next,’ said CSFB analyst Tony Shiret. ‘They’re making decent progress on expansion, and clearly they have potential growth other UK chains don’t.’

Debenhams hopes to increase the percentage of own-bought merchandise in stores, which now stands at 75 per cent of the mix. In August, the retailer launched its own-brand womenswear range, Spirit at Debenhams, which it hopes will achieve sales of£20 million in its first year. The retailer is also launching a gift card this Christmas - the first UK department store group to do so.