How Debenhams is Becoming a Beacon for Destination Shopping


The past year has seen a host of major brands retreating from the high-street: House of Fraser are closing more than half their stores, H&M have shut 170 shops, and Debenhams’ record annual loss in 2018 lead to the closure of 50 department stores over the UK.

While online shopping continues to boom with the promise of convenience, low cost and a personalised shopping journey, the humble high-street shop has had to concoct and refine a new strategy to remain relevant. Not satisfied to let their in-store journey fall by the wayside, Debenhams has unveiled a new brand identity, alongside an in-store journey which offers a personalised experience not available online.

‘At times like this my firm belief is you’ve got to come out fighting and that’s what we’re doing. We’re coming out saying ‘we are changing, there’s a lot happening here, there’s more to come’, said Richard Cristofoli, Director of Marketing at Debenhams. Subsequently, Debenhams upgraded five of its stores, and opened a new flagship store in Watford in September.

Destination Shopping

In an effort to regain its status as a leader in destination shopping, Debenhams has installed a multitude of luxuries and creature comforts to ensure customers can stay in-store longer. The retailer has announced its partnership with Sweat! Gyms and subsequent plans to implement in-store gyms. It also rolled out the new Beauty Hall of the Future, and welcomes customers to grab a healthy bite at the upmarket deli kitchen Loaf and Bloom. Whether customers want a full makeover, a healthy meal, a glass of prosecco or a quick work out, Debenhams has it covered. Its emphasis is on bringing back the social element of shopping to make it fun again, so shopping can be less of a chore and more of a fun day out. 

“I’ve got more choice than anyone could possibly provide in my pocket through my phone, so what customers say to us is ‘if I’m making the effort to go into town to go into a store, and in many instances pay for parking, then you’ve got to reward me with an experience that I can’t replicate online’,” said Cristofoli.

The Beauty Hall of the Future

The jewel in the crown for Debenhams’ new store design is its new ‘Beauty Hall of the Future’. An array of franchises line a highly instagrammable miniature high-street, including brands such as Dior, Too Faced, YSL, and Bumble & Bumble. a minibar where shoppers can mix and match miniature products to find their favourite, separate labs for skin, hair, makeup and perfume, and in the middle of it all, the beauty clubhouse, where customers are invited to take part in workshops or come and see demonstrations.

“With our Beauty Hall of the Future, we are responding to the way that customers say they want to shop as well as offering a compelling food offer and choice of beauty treatments in order to provide a destination where shopping can be enjoyed with friends and family,” said Debenhams CEO, Sergio Butcher.

Mark Stevens, Director of Creative, Debenhams will be speaking at Future Stores this year in London on succeeding in destination shopping. Download the agenda to find out what other great sessions, speakers and events we have planned for this year.

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