|Type||Public limited company|
|Traded as||LSE: DEB|
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Nigel Northridge (Chairman)
Michael Sharp (CEO)
|Products||Fashion clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, home and furniture, electricals, gifts, toys|
|Revenue||£2,229.8 million (2012)|
|Operating income||£158.3 million (2012)|
|Net income||£125.3 million (2012)|
Debenhams plc is a British major retailer operating under a department store format in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, 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 165 locations in Ireland and the UK. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The business was formed in 1778 by Messrs Flint and Clark, who began trading at 44 Wigmore Street in London as a drapers' store under the name Flint & Clark. In 1813, William Debenham became a partner and the corporate name changed to Clark and 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 stores acquired retained their former identities until a unified corporate image was rolled out across the stores. The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1928.
In 1985 the company was acquired by the Burton Group. Debenhams demerged in 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.
During the 1980s, Debenhams was targeted three times 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.
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. 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.
A private consortium named Baroness Retail Limited acquired the company in late 2003 and it returned to a listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2006. The consortium comprises 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 October 2010, the company launched its first iPhone app that allows customers to shop the online range and scan product barcodes in store. It added apps for other types of phones in March 2011 and in September 2011 expanded to add apps for virtually all smartphones.
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.
The company introduced the 'Designers at Debenhams' brand in 1993. 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 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.
As of January 2013, the company owns and operates 154 stores in the United Kingdom and 11 in Ireland. A further 6 stores trade under the Magasin name in Denmark.
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:
- Allders (Portsmouth)
- Bobbys (Bournemouth, Eastbourne, Exeter, Torquay etc.)
- Browns of Chester (Bangor, Chester)
- Curl Brothers (Norwich)
- Elliston & Cavell (Oxford)
- Griffin & Spalding (Nottingham)
- Handleys (Southsea)
- Jermyns (Kings Lynn)
- Jones (Bristol)
- Edwin Jones (Southampton)
- Kennards (Croydon)
- Lefevre (Canterbury)
- Lewis's (Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent)
- J. Newhouse (Middlesbrough)
- Marshall & Snelgrove (Oxford Street, London, etc.)
- Owen Owen (Crawley)
- Pauldens (Manchester, Sheffield)
- Pendleburys (Wigan)
- Mathias Robinson (Leeds, Stockton-on-Tees)
- Spooners (Plymouth)
- Stones (Romford)
- Thornton Varley (Kingston-upon-Hull)
International franchises 
A further 73 franchise stores operate under licence in 26 other countries, including Bahrain and Cyprus. The company plans to increase the number of international franchise stores to 150 within 5 years from 2013.
- "Annual Report 2012". Debenhams plc. 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "Overview". Debenhams. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Debenhams plc". Funding Universe. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "History". Debenhams. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Business History of Department Stores: Interesting Dates". KIPnotes. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Jane Martinson (14 December 2006). "The Queen of Retail makes a dull brand shine". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Undercover policeman 'fire-bombed shop,' MPs told". BBC News Online. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- "Bullring opens its doors". BBC News Online. 4 September 2003. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Bullring Information Pack". Bullring Alliance. 2003. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Alastair Jamieson (7 March 2009). "Fashion chain Principles to close 66 stores and axe majority of staff". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "UK: Debenhams buys Danish retailer Magasin du Nord for $20.3". just-style.com. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "About Debenhams". Debenhams. 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Rosie Baker (2 July 2010). "Debenhams has faith in shoe chain". Marketing Week. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "Debenhams launches Android & Nokia apps for shoppers on the move" (Press release). Debenhams. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Shopping goes truly mobile" (Press release). Debenhams. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Debenhams profit edges higher in 'difficult' trading". BBC News Online. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "Debenhams to be Shrewsbury shopping centre 'anchor tenant'". BBC News Online. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "Debenhams sales rise as profits 'set to grow'". BBC News Online. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "Designers at Debenhams". Debenhams. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Four new designers join Debenhams for ‘Edition’". Debenhams blog. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Annual Report and Accounts 2012" (Press release). Debenhams. 20 October 2011. p. 36. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Interim Management Statement". Debenhams plc. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Chris Irvine (16 December 2008). "Debenhams 'to open first store in Iran". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Debenhams launching Malta recruitment drive". The Times (Times of Malta). 13 July 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
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