Christopher Fenwick: How Fenwick faced up to the need for change

Fenwick, Bracknell store

In this exclusive extract from his new book, Christopher Fenwick recalls how the family-owned retailer recognised it had to bring in outside leadership.

During the new century, the significance of Fenwick as a department store group cleared. Debenhams, Fraser and John Lewis with some 250 stores between them remained widespread, while Harrods and Selfridges (although with three provincial stores) dominated with their large London stores alone.

Of those groups of more moderate size, Allders had dissolved while Beatties and Bentalls had been subsumed. This left Fenwick a clear sixth in the field with nine stores of differing sizes and types that required coordination.

Nationally, the sector had weakened. These factors were not recognised. Actual sales were suffering from the inroads of online trading, growing through the century to take an “alligator” bite of some 20%, or one customer in five, out of department store clientele.

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