Debenhams on Tuesday revealed its six months trading figures for the 26 weeks ending 27 February. The high street department store group posted nearly a 20% rise – it said half-year profits rose 18.6% and is predicting stable trading ahead.

The retailer, which has 164 stores, said pre-tax profits beat market expectations, jumping to £123.6 million in the six months to February 27, compared with £104.2 million in the same period last year. Debenhams, which has proved robust during the recession, said the second half trading environment would be “broadly neutral” for the firm.

Debenhams has looked to focus on its exclusive ranges such as its Designers at Debenhams lines, which include clothing from John Rocha, Jasper Conran, Betty Jackson and FrostFrench.

Rob Templeman, Chief Executive of Debenhams, said: “Throughout the last 18 months of recession, Debenhams has consistently achieved growth in sales, margins and trading profits. We made further progress in delivering our strategy in the first half and are pleased with our performance. “Looking forward, we expect the trading environment to be broadly neutral for Debenhams in the second half. We will maintain our focus on driving the business forward through self help measures to achieve our strategic goals and build on the good performance of the first half. We believe that the work we have done to improve our own bought ranges, including Designers at Debenhams, both in terms of product design, quality and value and increasing the own bought mix, will continue to find favour with customers and provide a solid platform for margin expansion and market share growth.”