The department store market is struggling like never before with changing consumer habits, rising costs and falling confidence all affecting the sector.

While retailers grapple with how to drive footfall and spend, the relevance of the department store format is increasingly under attack.

That sentiment chimes with research from consultancy Visual Thinking, published exclusively by Retail Week, which reveals that only 10% of shoppers regularly make purchases from a department store.

Of the remainder, 13% said they visited to shop with friends or meet for coffee; 24% said they visited occasionally to make one-off purchases; 26% admitted to just visiting for inspiration; and 27% said they only visited to buy gifts.

Accordingly, just 14% of shoppers said they visited a department store once a week with 31% saying they visited between two to three times every month. Just over one-quarter (27%) said they visited once a month, while 28% only visited “periodically”.

The most popular departments to purchase from were homewares (26%), womenswear (22%) and fragrance (19%). Menswear was most popular with 18% of shoppers, while childrenswear was relatively unpopular, with just 13%.

Among those surveyed, Marks & Spencer was the most popular, with 29% of shoppers regularly purchasing from the retailer. It was followed by Debenhams (27%) and John Lewis (22%). House of Fraser was the lowest-scoring of the major retail chains with 12%.

Happily for department store retailers that have pursued an experiential strategy, this resonated with shoppers.

Four-fifths said they had visited a restaurant, bar or other service offering such as a beauty bar at a department store, and 70% said those services would encourage them to visit a department store.