Debenhams in Sheffield city centre earmarked for redesign
The Sheffield city centre branch of Debenhams on The Moor is to undergo a revamp - bringing it in line with the shopping street's wider overhaul.
The Moor's redevelopment is about to begin its third phase, bringing new, refurbished units for H&M, New Look, Next and bowling alley Lane 7, with completion expected in 2019.
But Debenhams - which sits in a prominent corner position at the junction with Furnival Gate - is one of the few parts of the street not owned by Aberdeen Standard Investments, the group driving the major upgrade.
Presently the department store's facade is faded and stained, and the backing on the windows has peeled, giving the place a tired-looking appearance.
As the building is not ASI's responsibility, Debenhams will lead the work at its store. Last year the company announced a strategy called 'Debenhams Redesigned', structuring the business around three areas - fashion and home; beauty; and food and events - to follow a model the retailer has called 'social shopping'. This was in response to a shift in the behaviour of consumers, who increasingly prefer paying for experiences rather than simply buying things, as retail moves online.
Debenhams defines social shopping as a fun leisure pastime 'with friends and family, shared via social media'. Use of smartphones is key, enabling customers to locate stores, check the availability of items and write reviews of products. The focus will be on offering activities such as beauty treatments, as well as facilities like cafés and restaurants.Chief executive Sergio Bucher wants to strike partnerships with outside firms. Debenhams is to trial Sweat! gyms at three of its stores - the locations of which have yet to be confirmed - and is in talks to rent floor space in its flagship London store to office provider WeWork. It is pursuing a Â£10 million cost-saving plan after posting a fall in sales over Christmas, but is coming under pressure from its biggest shareholder, Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, which now has a 29.7 per cent stake - just under the level that would spark a takeover bid.
A Debenhams spokeswoman said: “The current Debenhams Redesigned strategy details our ambition to become a destination for ‘social shopping’. As part of this, we have a rolling programme which will see investment into our store experience to become a social destination for customers and their family and friends.”
The company confirmed the programme had not yet reached Sheffield but was being introduced nationwide.
Amanda Phillips, centre manager for The Moor, said: “We recognise that Debenhams is an important feature of The Moor."