SHARES DROP: Shares in department store Debenhams have fallen after the company said January's bad weather would hit profits.

The firm saw shares drop by 10 per cent, after reporting a 10 per cent fall in sales during the middle of January, with first-half profits expected to hit £120m.

A spokesman said: To recover sales lost due to snow, we introduced additional Valentine's Day and half-term promotional events.

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Although they did drive some incremental sales, they did not fully recover those lost in January.”

RIGHT TRACK: Rail operator East Coast has revealed it has seen a 50 per cent rise in passenger numbers on first class services despite the tough economic climate.

The company, which runs services on the East Coast Mainline, said 2.1m people used first class last year, an increase of 1.4m from 2003.

The figures come after a report revealed rail journeys across the UK last year hit 1.44bn, the highest figure for 90 years.

BUSINESS BOOST: A new town centre retail hub has welcomed three businesses to complete the development.

Middlesbrough Council-owned outlets in the Gilkes Street Quarter, have been taken on by printing and embroidery company, KB Occasions, therapy business Aztec Fair, and The Craftery, which specialises in hand-crafted wedding invitations.

Councillor Charlie Rooney, executive member for regeneration and economic development, said: “These are tough times, but given the right support, we know good ideas can flourish.”

CONSTRUCTION FALLS: The amount of construction projects across the UK fell in February, according to a new survey.

The Markit and Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) managers' index, which measures output, fell to 46.8, from 48.7 in the previous two months. A score under 50 means the sector is slowing down.

It said: “Commercial construction decreased at the steepest pace for just over three years, while the latest reduction in work on civil engineering projects was the fastest since October 2009.”