Department store chain Debenhams was positive about the rest of the year after beating market expectations for the first half with broadly flat profit, helped by tight cost controls and a good performance in menswear, footwear and health and beauty.

Debenhams, second to John Lewis in the British market, reported headline pretax profit of 128.5 million pounds, a slight dip on 129.2 million a year ago, but ahead of analyst consensus of 124.5 million.

Chief Executive Michael Sharp said he was pleased with the performance against a backdrop of tough conditions on Britain's high streets and warm autumn weather, which hit sales of outerwear, a strength for the chain.

He said he was comfortable with the market's outlook for the full-year profit of about 158 million pounds.

But he added that he was cautious about the impact of the wider economy on consumer behaviour in the second half and you can add to this the yet unknown impact of the Jubilee, the European Football, and the Olympic and the Paralympic Games.

Marks & Spencer , which sells food, clothing and homeware, has launched a major marketing push centred on Britain's landmark summer events.

Sharp said a feel-good factor from the Jubilee could benefit some clothing sales, as seen after last year's Royal Wedding, but the football would divert spending to beers, barbeques and food.

Trading would also be depressed by a refurbishment programme that will see 18 shops spruced up over the summer, he said, although sales quickly bounced back and rose by about 6 percent after each refresh.

Debenhams said last month that sales from its 170 stores in Britain, Ireland and Denmark, 66 franchise stores in International markets and online rose 1 percent in its first half.

Sales at stores open more than a year rose 0.3 percent, excluding sales tax, in the 26 weeks to March 3, confounding analysts who had expected a slight fall.

The group, which sells clothes, cosmetics and homeware, reduced its net debt by 71.9 million pounds during the period to 311.8 million pounds, and said it would spend 20 million pounds buying its stock over the next six months.

Sharp said the buyback would probably continue at about the same rate next year: That's indicative of where we are going.

Shares in Debenhams were 2 percent higher at 82 pence at 0923 GMT, outperforming a 0.4 percent stronger index of medium-sized companies <.FTMC>.

Espirito Santo Investment Bank analyst Sanjay Vidyarthi said it was a resilient performance in volatile and difficult trading conditions.

Debenhams maintained its interim dividend at 1 pence a share.

(Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)