1,200 jobs pledge at Debenhams despite downturn wiping 10% off share value

Debenhams has promised to create 1,200 jobs by 2011 despite a drop in half-year sales announced this morning.

The retailer announced that like-for-like sales had dropped 3.6% in the first half of its financial year, to the end of February, causing its share price to plunge by almost 10% this morning. However, chief executive Rob Templeman said he was pleased with the retailer’s performance during the first half of the year given the “extremely difficult trading conditions”.

He pledged to create 1,200 more jobs over the course of the next two years despite the economic outlook remaining “volatile and challenging”. The move will see a combination of full and part-time jobs in the eight new stores Debenhams plans to open over the next 18 months.

The retailer will use the government’s Local Employment Partnership (LEP) scheme to target people who have been out of the jobs market for some time, as well as those recently made redundant.

Debenhams HR director Nikki Zamblera said: “We are delighted to be creating these new jobs at a time when there has been so much bad news for the sector.”

“Our continued work with the LEPs and training provided through Jobcentre Plus together with Skillsmart Retail means that many of these new roles could be filled by those who have been unemployed for a while,” she added.

Templeman claimed Debenhams had taken market share from its competitors in all major product categories, but added that “we will continue to run Debenhams in the expectation that the trading environment will remain challenging”.

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