|Type||Public limited company|
|Traded as||LSE: DEB|
|Founded||1778 (by William Clark)
1813 (as Clark & Debenham)
|Headquarters||10 Brock Street, London, England, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Nigel Northridge (Chairman)
Michael Sharp (CEO)
|Products||Fashion clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, home and furniture, electricals, gifts, toys|
|Revenue||£2,282.2 million (2013)|
|Operating income||£154.0 million (2013)|
|Net income||£127.9 million (2013)|
Magasin du Nord
Debenhams plc is a British multinational retailer operating under a department store format in the United Kingdom and Ireland with franchise stores in other countries. The company was founded in the eighteenth century as a single store in London and has now grown to 172 locations across the UK, Ireland and Denmark. It sells a range of clothing, household items and furniture and has been known since 1993 for its 'Designers at Debenhams' brand range.
Headquartered in Regent's Place in the London Borough of Camden, Debenhams is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The company owns the Danish department store chain Magasin du Nord, and has a subsidiary in Ireland.
The business was formed in 1778 by William Clark, who began trading at 44 Wigmore Street in London as a drapers' store. In 1813, William Debenham became a partner and the corporate name changed to Clark & Debenham. In 1818 the company opened a second store in Cheltenham, and in 1851, Clement Freebody became a partner so the name changed again to Debenham & Freebody. The business was incorporated as Debenhams Limited in 1905.
The modern Debenhams group grew from the acquisition of department stores in towns and cities throughout the UK, under the leadership of its chairman, Ernest Debenham. The first of these purchases, Marshall & Snelgrove at Oxford Street in London, was acquired in 1919. Later purchases included Harvey Nichols in London's Knightsbridge in 1920. Most of the acquired stores retained their former identities until a unified corporate image was rolled out. The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1928.
Debenhams was targeted three times during the 1980s by the Animal Liberation Front in protest at the sale of animal furs in stores. Stores in Romford, Luton, and Harrow were fire-bombed by members, the worst attack being on the Luton store. As a result, the company stopped selling clothes with animal furs.
It was alleged by Caroline Lucas MP in a debate in Westminster Hall that Bob Lambert, a then undercover police officer, planted the fire bomb that caused £340,000 worth of damage to the Harrow branch of Debenhams in 1987. It is unclear if anything has come of these allegations as of March 2014.
Following the closure of the store in Dudley in January 1981 and the Birmingham store in 1983, the company's only store in the West Midlands for the next six years was a town centre store in Walsall. On 4 November 1989, it opened a store at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in Brierley Hill.
Debenhams demerged from the Burton Group in January 1998 and was once again listed as a separate company on the London Stock Exchange. It expanded under the leadership of Belinda Earl who was appointed CEO in 2000.
Debenhams opened its largest British store on 4 September 2003, at the new Bull Ring shopping centre in Birmingham. The new store contains 19,230 sq m and opened 20 years after the company closed its Birmingham city centre store due to declining trade.
A private consortium named Baroness Retail Limited acquired the company in November 2003, and it returned to a listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2006. The consortium comprised CVC Capital Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity, and management.
The company purchased the brand name and stock of Principles in March 2009 after the business entered administration. Principles operated concessions within 121 Debenhams stores, and was subsequently relaunched by Ben de Lisi as part of the Designers at Debenhams range.
In April 2012 the company announced it would be building 14 new stores, and was in negotiations over a further 25 sites in the UK. Debenhams agreed to become the anchor store at the Riverside shopping centre in Shrewsbury. By September 2012, the company announced that like-for-like sales had risen by 3.3% in the six months up to that date.
Debenhams moved to a new headquarters in 2013, in Brock Street, London. The company moved to a new building, built by British Land in Regent's Place. The company leased 174,500 square feet (16,000 m2) of office space from British Land for 25 years.
The company began a refurbishment of its flagship store in Oxford Street in 2013, which will involve the installation of 180,000 aluminium tiles on the exterior of the building that will appear to ripple with the wind. An existing floor will also be converted to become a trading floor. The total cost of the refurbishment will be £40 million, of which Debenhams will contribute £25 million. The owner of the building, British Land, will also contribute towards the cost. The refurbishment is due to be completed by February 2014.
The company's trading statement for the 17 weeks up to 28 December 2013 was released on 31 December 2013, and revealed a reduction in pre-tax profit from £115 million to £85 million. On 2 January 2014, the company's chief financial officer Simon Herrick resigned, following criticism of his financial decisions.
On 13 January 2014 4.6% of Debenhams shares were bought by Sports Direct, the retailer run by Mike Ashley. The stock market purchase of 56.8 million shares (worth around £46m) was made without the prior knowledge of the Debenhams board. Sports Direct stated at the time it intends to be a supportive share holder. The Debenhams board responded by stating they are open-minded with regard to exploring operational opportunities to improve its performance. Sports Direct sold its shares on 16 January 2014, although they took out an option to buy further shares up to a total of 6.6%.
Products and services
In 1993 the company introduced the 'Designers at Debenhams' brand, the creation of then CEO Belinda Earl, Ben de Lisi and Spencer Hawken. The idea put designer names and brands at High Street prices, including Jasper Conran, John Rocha, Betty Jackson Black, Butterfly by Matthew Williamson, H! by Henry Holland, Star by Julien Macdonald, Frost French, Erickson Beamon, Eric Van Peterson, Janet Reger, Pip Hackett, Melissa Odabash, Ted Baker, St George by Duffer, Jeff Banks, and Ben de Lisi. The brand Designers at Debenhams was the saving grace for the company which had been in decline since the late 1980s. The company also sells goods under a number of brand names that it owns.
In October 2010, Debenhams announced the launch of four new designer names to its fashion range; Jonathan Saunders, Preen, Jonathan Kelsey, and Roksanda Ilincic, who will be working with the retailer on a new concept called Edition.
Stores also contain concessions whereby other retailers may trade from. Brands in stores include Oasis, Coast, Phase Eight and Warehouse. In June 2014, the company announced a trial of Sports Direct concessions in its Harrow and Southsea stores, which if successful would be expanded to other stores. This followed the purchase of a stake in Debenhams by Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, in January 2014.
In the UK the company operates a retail website, as well as a mobile-enabled website and mobile apps that allow customers to shop the online range and scan product barcodes in store. Localised retail websites for Ireland and Germany have also been introduced.
Debenhams provide store card and credit card services, operated by NewDay. Insurance products are also provided under the Debenhams brand by other financial companies. Debenhams also operate bureau de changes in selected stores. The company also operates a loyalty card programme, branded the Debenhams Beauty Club, where customers can collect points with the purchase of health and beauty products.
United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark
As of 2013, the company owns and operates 172 stores in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. Stores in Denmark trade under the Magasin du Nord brand. Stores in Ireland are operated by Debenhams Ireland, which is a subsidiary of Debenhams plc.
Debenhams occupies the most sites of any of the traditional department store groups in the UK. The majority of the original trading names of the stores, in each of their respective locations, were replaced with the "Debenhams" name during the 1970s. All department stores in the group now trade as "Debenhams" except Browns in Chester. New stores are usually located within wider town and regional shopping centre developments. Stores amalgamated into the group include:
The Debenhams brand is used for stores operating under licence in 26 other countries, which are
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
The company announced in January 2013 that it planned to increase the number of international franchise stores to 150 within 5 years.
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- Jonathan Prynn (11 June 2013). "Debenhams to dazzle Oxford Street with 180,000 shiny tiles". Evening Standard. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
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- "Skiddle Affiliates Get Ready for NYE". Skiddle Blog.
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- Nastassia Astrasheuskaya (5 October 2012). "Debenhams has high hopes for Russia". Reuters. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "Interim Management Statement". Debenhams plc. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
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