Debenhams today reported a “robust” third quarter as like-for-likes remained flat. Retail Week summarises the City’s reaction

“The latest Kantar UK apparel market share data (12 weeks to May 12) suggests Debenhams continues to take market share, especially in menswear. Gross margin guidance for the full year has not changed, which implies Debenhams has managed its stock well during the period and has not been chasing sales.” - Aurelie Caspar, Merrill Lynch

“In the context of the poor weather, as well as disruption from the Oxford Street refurbishment (around 10% of group sales) this is not a bad performance in our view, despite being below expectations.” - Georgina Johanan, JP Morgan

“Flat like-for-like sales over the second half to date are below market expectations, although significant cost savings mitigate the profit effect to leave performance in line with the consensus range. Debenhams has gained market share in most categories and continues to make progress against its strategic targets. While forecasts remain unchanged, we suspect the weak sales performance may weigh on the shares today, and those of competitors such as M&S.” – John Stevenson, Peel Hunt

“If anything, the flat results from Debenhams underline the choppy nature of the current trading environment which continues to be buffeted around by the vagaries of the British weather. Against this backdrop it has been challenging for many retailers, and especially those exposed to fashion, to generate consistent uplifts in trade.

“There is an argument, however, 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.” – Neil Saunders, Conlumino

“Although there were concerns about the depth and phasing of promotions the flexibility in the supply chain means they didn’t commit to supplier orders they didn’t need and inventory levels are satisfactory. They therefore confirm full-year margin guidance at flat.” - Matthew McEachran, N+1 Singer

“We believe Debenhams’ UK operations could struggle to return to profit growth in the next 18 months with little new space addition due, increasing on-line costs, reliance on promotions, pension cost increases and the Oxford Street refurbishment costs to carry.” – Kate Calvert, Cantor Fitzgerald

“This is not a high quality update, but we think that the market had been expecting another warning, so there may be some relief today.” - Sanjay Vidyarthi, Espirito Santo

“Following a difficult start to the year, management has knuckled down to the task of running the business more efficiently whilst also driving its transformation into a multi-channel operation. Online sales are up 40% in the third quarter and Debenhams continues to take market share across all categories. The sustained nature of the market share gains both online and off give us confidence that management continues to do the right things to develop the offer.” - Eithne O’Leary, Oriel Securities