Improved margins and increased sales of own bought apparel drove department store Debenhams to a 10.7% hike in first half profits to GBP104.2m (US$151.4m).

Sales in the six months to 28 February edged up 0.3% to GBP1.307bn, and like-for-like sales were down 3.6%, but a 10-point margin lift elevated operating profit 5.7% to GBP134.7m.

The company added that recent trading showed further improvements, with sales in the seven weeks to 18 April up 6.1% and like-for-likes up 1.9%. Margins had continued to improve, it said.

Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman hailed the results as "a considerable achievement given the difficult trading conditions", adding: "We are pleased with the performance of our own bought ranges and in particular Designers at Debenhams."

Own-bought products registered a 4.4% sales increase during the first half, with Designers at Debenhams sales up 11%. However, concessions sales declined 11.8%.

Debenhams claimed a 10-basis-point gain in UK market share of clothing, footwear and accessories, driven in particular by rising sales in men's wear and children's wear.

Debenhams Direct, the company's online division, also registered strong growth, with visitor numbers and sales up 39.1% and 29.7% respectively during the first half.