Internet channels did little to ease the difficulties of the high street brands as Next and Debenhams today both announced falling sales at the end of 2008 and the market braces itself for more bad news from stalwarts Marks & Spencer (M&S). M&S confirmed to the BBC that it will be making redundancies tomorrow as it releases its latest trading statement.

Clothing and home wares retailer Next said its sales had dropped seven per cent in the six months leading to Christmas Eve 2008, whilst department store chain Debenhams reported a sales drop in the last 12 weeks of the year of 3.3 per cent. Debenhams said the decrease in sales was an improvement from a drop of 4.2 per cent it recorded in the first six months of 2008. Debenhams, which continued to open stores last year, said the decrease in debt was down to “continuing tight management of costs and stocks”.

“Our trading strategy for the first 18 weeks of the year has resulted in further market share gains and a creditable sales performance given the extremely difficult and volatile conditions seen across the high street,” said Rob Templeman, Debenhams chief executive.

Debenhams reported that its online business Debenhams Direct has increased visitors by 39.2 per cent and sales by 37.4 per cent.

Marks & Spencer will release its latest trading statement to the London Stock Exchange tomorrow morning and has confirmed to the BBC that it will be making 1000 of its 70,000 staff redundant. It is believed the cuts will come from its head office, support roles and its stores.

Marks & Spencer updated its web presence last July and has recently completed a major RFID integration to cover its 30 million products.

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