House of Fraser is Finding the Perfect Formula with Integrated Experimental Retail



As customers are increasingly turning to ecommerce for their shopping needs, it can be difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to stay ahead. But House of Fraser is ready to put up a fight to drive footfall to their shops by becoming an experimental retail store. Department store House of Fraser began life as a drapery shop in Glasgow, in 1849. The company continued to grow and today, House of Fraser is one of the most well-known and recognised department stores in the UK. The company employs nearly 20,000 staff and has revenues of over £1,000 million. In 2017, House of Fraser saw its pre-tax profits of more than £3.4 million.

Experimental Retail

A company doesn’t stay in business for a century and a half by standing still. The only way to stay evergreen in a changing marketplace is to constantly look for new ways to encourage customers to come through your doors instead of your competitors.


House of Fraser is now looking to build on its success and introduce a host of new features to its department stores. The great thing about the department store model is it lends itself extremely well to experimental retail, with separate “stores” all in a single building, it is a simpler matter to introduce new concepts to the landscape.

One way House of Fraser is looking to achieve this is by introducing a suite of non-shopping departments. These will include champagne bars, yoga studios, wellbeing centres, and a range of restaurants aimed at both adults and families/children. Beginning with the recently opened House of Fraser location in Rusden Lakes, the idea is to create a location where people can take loved ones on a special day – such as Mother’s Day – for shopping, food, and pampering, all under one roof.


“This approach will be highlighted in the new Rusden Lakes store, the retailer’s first store in 9 years, where the idea is to create a fully integrated experience for the whole family,” explains House of Fraser’s Chief Customer Officer David Walmsley.

The best thing about these experimental retail innovations is that it’s relatively simple to take out things that haven’t proved successful, and expand the ones which have, as well as introduce new ideas. The modular model of department stores makes experimenting a far more streamlined process than it would be in a single focus type retail environment.

No Sales

Another way House of Fraser is experimenting with its business model is by getting rid of discounts altogether. With House of Fraser positioning itself as a luxury brand, the idea of sales is somewhat incongruous with that image. Therefore, the department store is looking to adopt a strategy where the price of an item that is put up for sale is right – first time.

This will enable the brand to focus more on delivering first-class customer service and experiences, rather than spending time reorganising, and re-pricing stock. Reducing overall stock levels is another way House of Fraser is looking to present a more exclusive image.


“To assist the shorter sharper sales and to make them more effective, we will also be looking to reduce stock levels, which in turn will lead to decluttering the shop floor and make the store nicer to shop in, with the aim of making the stores look more premium,” said Maria Hollins, Executive Director of Product and Trading.

Final Thoughts

Experimental retail is a great way for House of Fraser to change from a simple shopping location, to one designed to deliver more complete experiences to its discerning clientele.

The final word goes to Julian Burnett, Chief Information Officer at House of Fraser. “Recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Unless you’re in an incredibly lucky position, you live with old systems and new services simultaneously. Your approach to managing and investing in technology must recognise that large-scale change must sit alongside continuous small-scale change.”

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