Should we be worried about Department Stores?

Department Stores

There have been many reports in the news lately about the High Street and how various retailers, such as House of Fraser, Poundworld, Toys R Us and Maplin (to name a few), are suffering from high street woes. But how has this news affected consumers?

We surveyed 1,399 people to find out whether the fact that House of Fraser was closing a number of its branches would affect their shopping habits. The results were quite telling with 85% saying this fact wouldn’t affect them at all. Furthermore, 13% said it would affect them a little and only 2% said that it would affect them a lot. So, it appears that the public may have fallen out of love with House of Fraser. This raises the question of whether this is specific to House of Fraser or a feeling across the department store sector more generally. In stark contrast many online retailers have reported an increase in profits, a differing outlook to many high street brands.

We delved deeper with our research and also asked a small sample of people (257) to what extent they tend to shop at department stores generally. Again, the results were telling with 27% saying not at all, 65% saying a little and only 8% saying a lot.

Even though it was a relatively small number of people sampled, the good news is that it seems that department stores still have a future. However, the challenge is for them to remain modern and relevant in such a fast paced retail environment. One thing that department stores can do for sure is provide enhanced levels of customer service. This is something which John Lewis is renowned for, for example. Another example in the department store sector is when you visit Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods, at Christmas time; it is all about retail theatre and the customer experience which drives people to want to experience it all.

There is no doubt that retail is changing. Consumers want to increasingly shop on their own terms whether it is online, in-store or a combination of both. One thing is for sure though and that is that great customer service will always help differentiate. This is why at Retail Maxim, we help many department stores to monitor, develop and improve.

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