Ever wondered what Debenhams’ 150 stores would turn over if they achieved similar sales densities to John Lewis’s 29 department stores?
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As Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s updated Debenhams profile highlights, Britain’s numerically largest department store chain has restored densities to £235 per sq ft. This still compares unfavourably with John Lewis’s remarkable £750 per sq ft, meaning the latter’s sales from its 3.9 million sq ft are only just below those of Debenhams’ 11 million-plus sq ft.
Debenhams, though, is not out of line with many competitors: House of Fraser’s latest figure is £190 per sq ft, with Beales on £165 per sq ft. Fenwick, however, manages almost £350 per sq ft. Does this mean John Lewis is just an exceptional one-off? No. Selfridges achieves more than £600 per sq ft, with Harvey Nichols and Marks & Spencer in the £500 to 600 per sq ft bracket, although M&S includes a significant food proportion.
So, it is not impossible to imagine Debenhams - or others - closing the gap significantly, albeit presenting a management challenge of rethinking everything to do so.
But over time it must be a realistic target for department stores with densities below £250 per sq ft to, say, double them - with a dramatic impact on profitability. How is Debenhams currently going about it? Initially by increasing own bought sales from 70% to at least 85%, as well as reallocating space, thereby offering a point of difference with its particular mix of own-bought house brands, plus Designers at Debenhams, and a leavening of concession brands.
Densities may already be improving, but need to go much further.
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