Debenhams is to pilot ‘online shops’ within its mid-sized department stores in a bid to grow its market share in today’s stagnant market.
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Chief executive Rob Templeman, who announced last week that he would retire from the department store business, said he was planning for “no real change in consumer confidence” for the next six months and that the development of Debenhams’ multichannel arm would “offer big growth potential” in a “low-growth market”.
He said: “Every retailer will be cautious about the next six months. We have to think about how we can drive more share.”
The department store - which said profits rose 4.5% to £129.2m in the 26 weeks to February 26 on like-for-like sales excluding VAT down 1.5% - already has online kiosks in 30 stores, and will be in all its stores in six months.
The online shops will be designated areas alongside its service desks - such as customer services and travel - where shoppers can browse iPads and shop its full product range. It will also feature Debenhams TV screens and soft seating with computers.
The retailer will trial the ‘online shops’ in its Fareham, Coventry and Bedford stores.
“It gives some of my smallest stores access to full ranges, the opportunity to expand in areas that are not available in stores but that are available online, such as electricals, furniture and lighting as well as a full wedding list,” said Templeman.
Debenhams also plans to launch multi-currency, multi-language websites with tailored home pages and promotions in up to 40 new markets. It will target countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, France and Germany. It has a euro site in the Republic of Ireland and sales through Debenhams Direct soared 82% in the first half.
Templeman will retire in September and hand the reins to his deputy Michael Sharp. Templeman, who has led Debenhams for eight years, will continue as a consultant for up to a year after his retirement. He said it is “too early to talk about what I might do next”.