Author: Natasha Hewitt, 05 October 2017

Debenhams

I recently visited Debenhams’ new store at Roaring Meg Retail Park in Stevenage. Hailed as an indication of the future of the retailer under Sergio Bucher’s leadership, the store is a departure from the more dated Debenhams that often occupy our high streets and shopping centres. This blog will examine the major changes in store and discuss the impact on both Roaring Meg and nearby existing stores.

Nando's
Patisserie Valerie

Expanding on the nationwide trend for increased Food & Beverage (F&B) provision in retail areas, Sergio Bucher has used the new Debenhams store in Stevenage to introduce F&B units into the blueprint of the store plan. In this store; Nando’s, Patisserie Valerie and Costa are all well integrated in the unit, with main entrances inside the store. This has successfully created a social aspect to the experience, encouraging more leisure focused trips as opposed to efficiency driven shopping.

Clothing

On the whole, the store gives the impression that it is trying to appeal to a more youthful market, with neon strobe lighting and bold displays adorning the wide isles. It is clear that Debenhams has thoughtfully co-ordinated the F&B provision with the product range best suited to its target market. Those using the entrance nearest to Nando’s will be close to brands such as Quiz, Warehouse and Red Herring, while those on the Patisserie Valerie side will be welcomed by more mature brands Rocha John Rocha, Jasper Conran and Mantaray. 

Cosmetics

The cosmetics department also emphasised the youthful focus of the store, with priority given to Benefit, Mac and Urban Decay in the main concourse (all of which were very busy), while more mature brands such as Estee Lauder and Clarins were to be found on the back wall. It is however, important to note that despite the noticeable emphasis on capturing spend from younger shoppers, the store also does well to provide all the brands suited to its core audience;  emphasised by the predominantly Family/Empty Nesters profile of the shoppers in store.

The Park

The store opening in Roaring Meg comes at a time when effort has been made to update the public realm of the scheme, with newly landscaped walkways where community events are encouraged. While these improvements to the scheme will no doubt attract additional shoppers, especially when you consider the current lack of any other Clothing & Footwear, it would be interesting to understand the level of additional sales this store will generate for Debenhams compared to the impact on existing sites.

It would be easy to assume that the store receiving the most substantial impact is the existing provision in Welwyn Garden City (approximately a 15 minute drive). The much smaller store has strong local competition in the town from John Lewis and Marks & Spencer. With Debenhams announcing a streamlining of its portfolio, could this store be in danger? 

What challenges is your store portfolio facing? FSP can model potential cannibalisation and help understand the potential impact of new store locations or rationalisation of your estate. My colleague, Andy Stringer, can help.

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