Challenging times continue to affect David Jones after it reported that first half year sales for the 2012 financial year were down 6.6 per cent by $1.01 million on the same period last year.

More specifically indicated it also had a rough Christmas with the department store also reporting total sales revenue for the second quarter of 2012 dipped 3.1 per cent $598.5 million. On a like-for-like basis sales revenue was decline 2.4 per cent on same the period last year.

David Jones CEO Paul Zahra said despite the poor results, there has been improvement in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

“Trading conditions continue to reflect the uncertainty in the macro-economic environment with conservative consumer shopping continuing and no material signs that this is changing. Nonetheless we did see an improvement in December 2011 and January 2012 compared to October 2011 and November 2011, which in turn were better than August 2011 and September 2011,” he said.

“Sales on a state-by-state basis were consistent except for Queensland which showed signs of improvement as we cycled the January 2011 floods. Pleasingly there was an improvement in the performance of our high value demographic stores compared to 1Q12.”

The company’s best performing category was beauty and despite the impact of the cooler weather through the second quarter womenswear, meanswear, foot and accessories also delivered positive results, which were partially driven by clearing excess inventory. Meanwhile, electricals continued to be the most challenging category.

“Clearance trading was pleasing, driven in part by our decision to limit category wide discounting during the pre-Christmas trading period,” Zahra said.

“We are pleased with the good progress we are making in clearing our excess inventory and whilst we are confident that this will be cleared in FY12, as previously  flagged this will have an impact on our GP Margin performance in both 1H12 and 2H12.”

But as David Jones strategically exits from non-profitable categories, it looks at tapping into more successful ones with the launch of its bridal boutique – ‘Bridal at David Jones’.

According to IBISWorld the Australian bridal market will be valued at $4.3 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent per annum over the next few years. David Jones is aiming to carve out a profitable share of the $1 billion p.a. that brides, their partners and families spend each year on dresses, suits, shoes and accessories.

‘Bridal at David Jones’ will offer products from bridal designers including Johanna Johnson, Steven Khalil, Lisa Gowing, Karen Willis Holmes, Collette Dinnigan, Lisa Ho, Akira Isagowa, Alex Perry and Carla Zampatti.

The suite is 650 square metres in size and is housed Sydney’s Elizabeth Street store. It is staffed by four bridal experts all of whom have bridal gown design, fitting and retail experience.

Looking forward, the company has reaffirmed its first half year profits after tax guidance of -15 per cent to -20 per cent, with expectation the challenging retail conditions to continue throughout calendar 2012.