Debenhams, Britain's second biggest department store group, has forecast a better second half of the year after posting an expected 5.4% fall in first-half profit that was blamed on January snow.

Debenhams said today it made a pre-tax profit of £120.3m sterling in the 26 weeks to March 2.

That was in line with guidance given in a March profit warning when the firm said snow in January had dented sales, but down from the £127.1m made in the 2011-12 half year.

"We expect to make further progress in the second half despite consumer sentiment remaining weak and challenging market conditions," said chief executive Michael Sharp.

Many British retailers are finding the going tough as consumers, whose spending generates about two thirds of UK gross domestic product, fret over job security and a squeeze on incomes. Cold, wet weather has also held back sales.

Last week Marks & Spencer, Britain's biggest clothing retailer, posted a 3.8% underlying fall in fourth-quarter general merchandise sales.

Debenhams said its first-half sales rose 3.5% to £1.54 billion. The firm maintained its interim dividend at 1.0 pence a share.