Debenhams emphasised its focus on warehouse automation as part of a company strategy in embarking on a strategic warehousing plan.
The department store retailer announced its interim half-year results to 3 March 2018, with group sales slightly down 1.6% in H1 FY17, with like-for-like sales having declined 2.2%.
During 2017 the Group embarked on a strategic warehouse restructuring which included warehouse automation and the closure of its distribution centre at Northampton and certain regional warehousing facilities.
Total exceptional items before taxation during the 26 weeks ended 3 March 2018 in relation to the strategic warehouse restructuring totalled £6.5m.
Its focus on warehouse automation has meant an increase in capital expenditure during the six month period from October 2017 to March 2018, from £60.3m during the half compared to £47.5m in the same period last year, which the company said was “in line with our plans”.
Commenting on the financial results, CEO Sergio Bucher said: "The UK retail environment is undergoing profound change, and with the help of some important new senior hires, we are moving faster and working harder than ever to ensure Debenhams is well-placed to outperform in this new retail world. We expect no help from the external environment, so we are focused on delivering our Debenhams Redesigned strategy, aiming to mitigate difficult trading conditions through self-help initiatives.
"It has not been an easy first half and the extreme weather in the final week of the half had a material impact on our results. But I am hugely encouraged by the progress we are making to transform Debenhams for our customers. Our digital growth continues to outpace the market while our store in Stevenage was recently named best new store at the Retail Week Awards. We are holding share in a difficult fashion market, and in other categories such as furniture, exciting new partnerships have the potential to transform our offer. We approach the remainder of the year mindful of the very challenging market conditions, but with confidence that we have a strong team and the right plan to navigate them and return Debenhams to profitable growth."