Debenhams' first department store
was opened in 1905. However, the company dates back to 1778 and
the Debenhams name first appeared London's Wigmore Street in 1813
as the partnership of Clark and Debenham. This business prospered
throughout the 19th century, growing to include retail outlets all
over the country as well as clothing manufacturing operations.
Debenhams was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1928, trading
as an independent company and continued to expand. The Burton Group
acquired Debenhams in 1985. At that time Debenhams had 65 department
stores in key locations across Britain. Debenhams management reorganised
the business and introduced own brand merchandise across key product
areas in the late 80's and 90's. In January 1998, Debenhams demerged
from the Burton Group and once again became an independently listed
company on the London Stock Exchange, now known as Debenhams plc.
Debenhams currently has 90 department stores in Britain and one
in the Republic of Ireland employing over 20,000 staff (60% are
part time). These stores also offer direct mail order and a transactional
web site. Its head offices are situated in London and Taunton. Debenhams
has plans to open 15 more stores in Britain by 2003. In the global
arena, through a franchise partner, Debenhams operates stores in
the Middle East, Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, and plans to open more
stores during the next few years.
Debenhams offers national, international and own brand goods, specialising
in clothing, accessories, cosmetics and homewares. It has contracts
with over 25 leading British designers including Jasper Conran,
Pearce Fionda, Philip Treacy, Ozwald Boateng and Cath Kidston. It
holds 20% of wedding list market and has added wedding stationery
and ready-to-wear designer bridal wear. Other features include the
Personal Shopper a service aimed at "helping our customers select
the most appropriate merchandise for their needs. Evidence shows
that customers value the Personal Shopper service and as a result
they spend more" says Peter Jarvis, Chairman.
It's catalogue, "Debenhams Direct", was launched in February 2000
in association with Freemans, a subsidiary of Otto Versand GmbH.
The catalogue contains over 35% more products than are available
in the stores, hence aims to increase the product choice to customers.
Shopping kiosks within stores are being developed where customers
will be able to access the website or browse through the Home Shopping
catalogue. Together with the "Special Order Service" customers are
able to order any goods regardless of the store size.
Debenhams boasts one of the highest staff retention rates in the
retail sector. It achieves this by its close liaison with educational
establishments, on-going training and assessment programmes, bonus
schemes and internal promotion.
In the last financial year total sales were up by 1.4% to £1,397.9
million (1998/9 £1,378.8 million). However, there was a decrease
in profit before tax, which was £129.6 million (1998/9 £138.8 million),
but there was an overall increase in market share (to over 13%)
with 4 new stores, 11 refurbished and significant investment in
the internet, home shopping catalogue and brand advertising campaign.