Debenhams enjoyed a strong Christmas, reporting a 2 per cent like-for-like increase in sales over the Christmas period.

However, the retailer warned that the fragile state of consumer confidence means the department store remains cautious for this year.

In the four weeks to January 5, sales were 4.4 per cent higher than last year. For the 18 weeks to January 5, sales were 2 per cent above the comparative period last year. Like-for-likes for the 18-week period were flat.

The retailer said the performance of the Designers at Debenhams brands has been pleasing and contributed to overall market share gains.

Visitor numbers and sales at Debenhams Direct, the retailer’s online business, climbed 57 per cent and 85 per cent respectively.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman said: “The fragile state of consumer confidence leads us to view the future with caution and we are running the business on the basis that market conditions will remain difficult.

“To this end, we are focusing more on our designer credentials, which we believe will be more resilient in this environment, as well as managing our cost base, the speed of our refit and capital expenditure programmes and our inventory levels.”

Since the start of the year, three new and two resited department stores and one Desire store opened, increasing trading space by 197,000 sq ft.

The retailer has 146 stores in the UK and Ireland. 18 stores have been refurbished this year.

Angela Spindler, who has been appointed Debenhams managing director, will join on February 4.