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Retail review – December 2016

As customers and retailers look across all touchpoints rather than siloed channels, so IR retailer reviews look at the entire retailer’s eco-system of website, mobile, the use of digital in store and their overall strategy. Longer in-depth analysis can be viewed online at This issue our reviewers examine


Pete Brown, Consultant, Kurt Salmon

BHS is hoping for a comeback as a new pureplay online retailer. This is a highly competitive market and it is entering at a time when department stores are in a decline in the UK, which could prove a bold step.

Other successful department stores in the UK tend to have a luxury focus that is cemented with a strong store presence. Without this it will be interesting to see how well the new BHS can position itself in the market. With Selfridges showing a 1.9% dip in operating profit after investing £300m in their flagship Oxford Street store, it’s a brave move to act as a standalone in the pureplay market.

The new BHS has launched its website in an agile way, starting with lighting and homeware and pushing towards the fashion markets. The aim is to launch 80% of the old BHS product offering, an ambitious target.

The website is clear and well laid out. It has moved to a much more user-friendly platform than previously. The simplistic and modern approach is completely different and supports a strategy to attract a younger consumer.

With this in mind, it seems in a hurry to differentiate from before and is aiming to launch its new fashion focus to a more trend-minded consumer. The sales process is integrated with multiple opportunities to provide real-time feedback through reviews and sharing opportunities via social media. In order to stay ahead of the digital curve in a market super-saturated with online retailers, it is vital that BHS keeps listening to its customers to avoid the pitfalls of other department stores. The key method of choice it uses to communicate is Twitter. This offers a more efficient line to resolve issues for younger customers.

It is very early days for the new pureplay BHS so it will be interesting to see in the coming months where the next steps take the business but for now it looks to have positioned itself in a much better place to move forward.


Jessica Cameron, User Experience Consultant, User Vision

BHS’s new website feels like a work in progress. While features like the search and checkout work well, the product pages and filter options seem incomplete. As they add more items to their site, BHS should attend to their content management, making sure that descriptions are informative and product categories and filters are helpful. As it stands, loyal customers may not persevere to find the items they know and love, and new customers are unlikely to find inspiration from single images and unclear copy. Overall, scores 16/25 for web effectiveness.


Rob Thurner, Managing Partner, Burn The Sky

Overall, the BHS website works well on mobile, achieving a score of 16 out of a possible 25 and 5/5 for a smooth and efficient payment and checkout process. Page load time is pretty good and the site is generally easy to navigate, providing a mostly effective and efficient customer journey. Good use of paid search promotes 30% and 20% discounts, taking me to the relevant landing pages. The social media links all direct to BHS sites quickly, as does the click to call link to customer service.

A few areas could do with improving, including the ‘refine button’ on search results which brings up the wrong colour images for black jackets – this will be an issue for customers expecting speed of service and ease of use and possibly lost sales for the company.

While BHS is active on all large social media platforms with accounts well managed by the BHS team, there is a lot of visually rich and well-presented editorial content in categories which only appear available on the social media accounts, e.g. Instagram but not on the website. Better co-ordinating the company website with their social media presence should be a key priority for BHS, both in terms of displayed content, but also as a market intelligence source.

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