UHY Hacker Young | Chartered Accountants

Debenhams – the latest casualty of the retail sector

25 April 2019

Debenhams is the latest in a long list of casualties in the retail sector, which raises concerns over a potentially outdated model for most similar department stores. The fall in footfall is something very difficult to contend with, and affects big and small retailers alike. The rise in online shopping, the heavy burden of business rates, and over-expansion of shops and outlets in limited areas are all factors which have led to the crisis the retail sector is facing today.

The success stories like Primark and Wagamama, however, have something in common: a fresh brand which remains in tune with its target market. Primark has no online presence and hence succeeds in driving footfall in a challenging market. Moreover, everyone who shops there has a clear idea of what the brand represents and what service and quality they expect. Primark has tried to surpass those expectations but nonetheless consistently delivers on its promise.

Wagamama, which has recently been acquired by the Restaurant Group, has a following of its own and sits in between traditional fast food outlets and white tabled-clothed restaurants. It has changed the way we eat and consistently pushed the boundaries to meet the tastes of customers who are now more well-traveled and fast becoming keen followers of pan-Asian cuisine.

Those shopping centres which have fared better over the years tend to incorporate more into their customers’ shopping experience. Pop up restaurants, live demonstrations and events which represent a complete shopping experience are the new normal for the more successful retail centres. If existing shopping centres have any chance of surviving in this high-change environment, they need to embrace this change and give the customers what they want or they might all face a bleak future.

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