Debenhams boss Michael Sharp insisted that its Blue Cross Sales still pack a punch despite claims that they could be losing their potency.

“Our promotions are a real strength. There is no evidence that customers are less willing to engage or it’s less powerful in the marketplace,” he said.

Conlumino managing director Neil Saunders suggested that the frequency of Debenhams’ Sale activity could be weakening their impact.

He said: “There is an argument that the traditional tactic of discounting to sell through ‘unseasonal’ stock is a less potent weapon for Debenhams during this time than it is for other players, if only because Debenhams’ promotional activity is so ubiquitous throughout the year.”

Debenhams posted flat like-for-likes in its third quarter to June 22 in what Sharp said was a “challenging” market, exacerbated by unseasonable weather.

Debenhams is to focus on improving its click-and-collect service according to Sharp, who said the channel is how online customers are choosing to shop.

Sharp admitted that Debenhams’ sales via the channel are “not big enough and need to grow”.

Click-and-collect is a strength of rival John Lewis and over Christmas made up 35% of its online sales. John Lewis has widened its click-and-collect network by partnering with corner shop collection service Collect+.

Online sales continued to soar at Debenhams, jumping 40% in the quarter.