Jan 6, 2018

UK retailers tell tale of two high streets

Sergio Bucher has promised to reinvent Debenhams, the struggling UK department store chain where he became chief executive last year, as a teeming social hive that customers visit less for the products on display than for the experience of shopping itself. Debenhams' dismal Christmas triggered a payday for short-sellers, in a week that suggested two starkly different views on whether established British bricks-and-mortar retailers can succeed in a shopping scene now populated by internet retailers and bargain stores. Like fellow discounter B&M, which unveils its Christmas results next Friday, Poundland has grabbed customers from a wide range of specialist retailers by offering a product range that encompasses everything from party hats to gardening tools, while offering limited choice within each category. "I can remember having the same conversation 10 years ago about American-style retail on the high street - regular discounts, blue cross days, all that stuff," says Next's Lord Wolfson. While the chain experimented with Black Friday discounts for the first time last year, this was "Definitely not a move away from our general principle" of resisting promotional discounts for almost all of the year, he says.

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