For David Jones shareholders there was one vital ingredient missing from today’s profit announcement - any glimmer that trading has picked up over the past couple of weeks.

Instead the company inferred the opposite. It pointed to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and trouble in the Middle East as partly responsible for the poor consumer sentiment that the high end department store group is experiencing.

Shareholders will appreciate the strong profit numbers David Jones produced in the first half of 2011. The 5.2 per cent improvement in earnings before interest and tax is quite an achievement in the depressed retail environment where sales are flatlining.

It is certainly a far better outcome than its main competitor, Myer - whose profit has been falling.

But this was in line with David Jones management’s previous steerage. Not disappointing will not win it any fans. We have already come to expect this from David Jones. Management’s consistency in this regard may be something of a curse for its new chief executive, Paul Zahra.

He needs to surprise on the upside to win any accolades. A positive word or two about the current trading conditions would have done the trick.

The affirmation of a full-year earnings increase of 5 to 10 per cent suggests that the management is hopeful that there will be some pick up is possible. If trading remains sluggish the company likely to come in closer to the 5 per cent level.

There are no big promises. David Jones and most of the other retailers are sailing in unchartered waters. No longer is retail activity closely tied to economic activity.

The consumer sentiment is impacted by a series of world events - and a general sense of nervousness - causing shoppers to save rather than spend.

eknight@smh.com.au