Department store chain David Jones has lifted its first half profit by 2.4 per cent and says it is well prepared for the downturn.

Net profit was $91.16 million for the six months ended 24 January, up from $88.98 million in the previous corresponding period.

Sales fell 6.4 per cent to $1.06 billion in the half, leading to group earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $134.1 million, down two per cent.

Its overall EBIT to sales margin was 12.6 per cent, compared to 12.1 per cent in the first half of fiscal 2008.

During the first half, the company’s financial services business reported a 7.5 per cent increase in EBIT to $19.7 million, following the launch of its David Jones American Express credit card.

Department store EBIT fell 3.5 per cent to $114.4 million in the first half.

The group’s gross profit margin for the first half of declined to 39.5 per cent from 39.8 per cent in fiscal 2008.

The company has net debt of less than $100 million.