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Struggling department store chain Debenhams has reported a fall in sales during the crucial Christmas trading period. In a “volatile” environment with customers seeking discounts, Debenhams reported a 5.7% fall in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 5 January.

The group, which is closing 50 stores, said it would not sell any businesses while it spoke to its lenders. Talks with lenders were “constructive”, Debenhams said.

In the shorter trading period, the six weeks to 5 January, like-for-like sales – which strip out changes to stores – were down 3.4%. Sergio Bucher, chief executive of Debenhams, said the number of customers coming to his stores across the country “had been weak”.

A number of other retailers have released trading statements.

  • Marks & Spencer saw its sales dropover the Christmas holiday period. Like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of new stores, were down 2.2% in the 13 weeks to 29 December. Food sales fell 2.1% and its clothing and home sales division slid 2.4%.
  • Tesco appeared to buck the gloomy trend. It said trading over the Christmas period had been “strong”. The company, which is the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, said its like-for-like sales over Christmas in the core UK area were up 2.2% in the six weeks to 5 January.
  • John Lewis said sales in the seven-week Christmas period were 1.4% higherthan for the same period last year. However, that may not be enough to secure a bonus for its staff this year, the firm added.

Meantime discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl both saw sales rise sharply with two in three shoppers saying they visited at least one of those stores over the festive season

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