Retail chain Debenhams has announced an 86 percent increase in sales via its "multi-channel" business, which refers mainly to online.

In the company’s half-year results for the period ended 27 February 2010, Debenhams reported that sales through its multi-channel business, which refers largely to online sales, but also includes catalogue sales, had reached £50.6m in the half-year. The company said its website receives 1.5 million visits a week.

"Developing a true multi-channel business, rather than just a bricks-and-mortar retailer with a website, is an important strategic aim. The focus is around employing technology to increase customer choice and to widen availability and ranging," the company said.

As well as relaunching its website in November 2009 with new features and improved navigation, the company has also launched in-store ordering facilities in all its stores on an assisted basis.

"Technology is currently being sourced to facilitate the introduction of self-service customer order and service points during next year," said Debenhams.

The IT investment has contributed to the company’s overall rise in profits. It recorded pre-tax profits of £120.5m for the six months to 27 February, up 18 percent from £102.2m in the same period last year.

Debenhams also reported an increase in revenue of 8.4 percent to £1.42bn.

However, Rob Templeman, chief executive of Debenhams, added: "We expect the trading environment to be broadly neutral for Debenhams in the second half."

The retailer has made significant investment in IT in the past few years in an effort to cut costs and reduce wasted resources. In February 2009, the company said it had implemented CA’s Clarity Project & Portfolio Manager (PPM) to boost the success rate of its IT projects and track 60 separate change programmes across the company. Debenhams also used the PPM for the development of a new order-fulfilment system for its website.

The retail chain originally announced its plans to develop its website, which it launched in December 2006, to help lift its sales three years ago.