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Debenhams multichannel expansion pays off

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By the end of this year, Debenhams will expand its international delivery from seven to 40 countries, while also testing an instore ‘online shop’ and widening the product range sold through ecommerce.

The developments are all part of a multichannel strategy that aims to increase the choice of ways that consumers can shop at Debenhams. In the first half of the store’s financial year, new access points included an iPhone app, online video through Debenhams TV and the roll-out of self-service order kiosks. International trading was extended with the launch of a Republic of Ireland website, Debenhams.ie.

Future developments will also include the launch of Android and Nokia smartphone apps, while a Beauty Club app is also to launch soon.

All this adds to existing access points such as instore ordering and collect from store. It’s a strategy that seems to be paying off for the department store chain. The retailer said this week that in the first half of its financial year, to February 26, Debenhams Direct sales had jumped by 82.4% to £92.3m, compared to the same time last year.

That contrasts with flat like-for-like sales across the wider group and helped boost profit growth. Pre-tax profits rose by 4.5% to £129.2m, compared to the same time last year. Excluding VAT, sales fell by 1.5%. Gross turnover grew by 3.2% to £1.46bn.

Rob Templeman, chief executive of Debenhams, said: “We continue to believe that our investments in infrastructure, the building of a seamless multichannel business and the continuing improvements to the store experience through our refurbishment programme will serve us well, particularly when the retail environment begins to improve.”

Multichannel is one of four key development strategies for Debenhams. The others centre on products, especially private-label products, space, with the refitting of existing stores and opening of further outlets, and balance sheet management, as the company continues to reduce its levels of debt.

Templeman said there were encouraging signs that commodity prices such as cotton could fall, but that it was planning for “no real change in consumer confidence”. He said: “We will continue to ensure that our focus on offering our customers outstanding choice, quality and value remains at the forefront of our decision making.”

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