Department store group Debenhams assured the City that interim profits would meet consensus and be ahead of last year.

Like-for-likes excluding VAT fell 1.5% in the 26 weeks to February 26, but the retailer benefited from higher margins as a result of the shift to own-bought product and keen markdown management.

Peel Hunt, advising buy, said: “Retailers that offer self-help initiatives to support gross margin remain well placed to deliver profit growth, as Debenhams demonstrates.”

FinnCap, also recommending buy, said: “News flow in the coming weeks is unlikely to be helpful to the sector, but Debenhams remains undervalued on a long-term basis.”

Investec, another buyer, said: “Debenhams appears to be outperforming the clothing market with the benefit of its Designer brand mix and self-help to support the profit outlook.”