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House of Fraser opens ‘new kind of multichannel concept’ in Caffè Nero store

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House of Fraser will next month open its first multichannel store to be located in another retailer’s premises.

The company has teamed up with Caffè Nero to launch a concept shop that will merge the coffee shop feel with House of Fraser shopping technology.

The ground floor of the existing coffee shop, on Fitzroy Street, Cambridge, will feature House of Fraser tablet computers on tables where customers can shop while drinking their coffee.

On the House of Fraser-branded and staffed first floor, customers will be able to view products, use order in store terminals, collect their online orders and try on items in a fitting room. The new store will also feature interactive beacon mannequins.

Both House of Fraser and Caffè Nero expect to gain new customers and boost sales as a result of the partnership.

Andy Harding, executive director of multichannel at House of Fraser, said: “We have a high density of online shoppers within Cambridge postcodes, so having a physical brand presence was an obvious move. As part of our expansion plans we are keen to increase our physical footprint, especially in towns and cities where a store isn’t present. With a growing café culture and more customers shopping ‘on the go’ with mobile devices, we believe we’re providing our customers with an innovative solution which meets the needs of today’s busy consumer. “This new concept will not only act as a hub for our online shoppers wishing to collect their orders but will also become a destination for new and existing customers who want to shop their favourite brands which may not be available in the area. Many customers will also enjoy the added benefit of having a personal shopper on hand for advice.”

Simon Thomas, head of business development at Caffè Nero, said: “Our customers have always come to Caffè Nero to enjoy their coffee in a relaxed and friendly environment, and are increasingly passing their time whilst with us using our wifi or on their mobiles. The opportunity to provide added value and convenience by enabling them to shop online, and collect their items in store appeals and the evolution of our existing partnership with House of Fraser is an exciting one.”

The news came in the week that House of Fraser chief executive John King said the department store would continue to invest in multichannel under its new owners.

Speaking as the department store group this week reported first-half like-for-like sales growth of 4.2% and online sales growth of 29%, compared to the same time last year, King said it would invest £150m in the UK over the coming four years. The money, he said, would “further improve the shopping experience for our customers, through better store environments and developments to our online platform.”

Growth over the half-year to July 26, King said, had been driven by “the continued success of our leading multichannel offering and the strength of our premium branded proposition.”

He added: “Earlier this month, Nanjing Cenbest completed the acquisition of House of Fraser, providing us with a strong platform from which to expand out business in international markets and to further develop and invest in our multichannel offering, our store portfolio, growing our house brands and introducing exciting premium brands.”

Gross transactional value grew by 4.2% to £542m in the period, while earnings before interest, tax and asset depreciation came in at £8.6m, up from £7.5m at the same time last year. Store sales grew by 1.2%.

Improvements to online trading over the half-year included a website redesign, which had lifted both customer visits and conversions, as well as improvements to deliveries. Other highlights included the launch of house brand Biba Home. A second international store is set to open in Abu Dhabi in 2015.

Looking ahead, House of Fraser said like-for-like sales were up by 6.6% in the first eight weeks of the third quarter, with store and web sales both showing growth in sales and margins.

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