Close this search box.

EDITORIAL From Debenhams to JD Sports: working to keep stores relevant

Debenhams Redesigned sees stores complementing online and mobile

Don’t panic. That’s the core message from Debenhams this week as it was pushed, through media speculation, into reassuring investors that it is not in trouble. It says that it’s starting to see the results from a transformation strategy that is aimed at redefining Debenhams’ role on the high street – and online.

It’s not surprising that investors might panic, and sell off shares to the extent that the department store saw a double digit dip in its listed market value over recent days. After all, House of Fraser has already gone into administration – rescued by Sports Direct, which also has a stake in Debenhams – and John Lewis said at the beginning of this summer that it would take a hit on profits as it invests in the kind of customer experience that it sees shoppers demanding. Department stores are having to rethink their role in the high street in an age when more shoppers buy online. 

But don’t panic is a good message both for investors and for other members of the retail industry. Such stories prompt talk of the death of the high street, as seen in the survey we cover on in-store investment from Rackspace today. But we think that’s a premature judgement, as Peter Cowgill of JD Sports says in its half-year figures today. The sportswear retailer is seeing a sharp rise in profits as it attends to the basics, moving away from discounting and ensuring that all its stock sells through. It also says that stores will remain important to its operations – but that’s in the context of good merchandising, retail theatre and integrated multichannel operations. All of these things are more achievable with steady effort and investment than through a panic reaction. Improving retail will better give customers the kind of shopping they want – and that will boost profits as a result.

That said, stores are now unlikely to prosper in a vacuum. Online is providing great opportunities, including the ability to export overseas much more easily than in years gone by. We cover news that the UK remains Europe’s biggest exporter in a study that also looks at what and how international shoppers want to buy.

Today’s guest comment comes from John Heald of SAP Customer Experience, who considers how to appeal to older shoppers. 

Image courtesy of Debenhams

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on