Interview Transcript

How has the typology of customer changed for Debenhams over the last decade?

How has the customer changed? Well I suppose that this is opinion rather than fact. I think as beauty has grown and different brand houses have come in I think newer customers within the beauty market versus the overall shape of the Debenhams customer is probably getting marginally younger. However, that beauty customer is not going into the other parts of the store.

The Debenhams overall customer probably isn't really changing quickly enough. If you look through all the market stats, the market share, it peaks in the older tiers of age group in the way they measure it, it's very low when you get to below 25 and hasn't really shifted at all.

Can we just talk about this market shift, because in the recent strategic update they mentioned how they've grow in share in womenswear and they put it down to, especially in womenswear, around own bought range and that reflects better value, better fabrics and improved brand differentiation. Can you explain exactly what they've changed and actually if it is competitive today?

I think that's one you're never really going to be able to measure properly. I think there is a slow but definite improvement in the buying and focus on the buying side, but it's a very small and gradual change. There is a lot of disruption going on there because of all the changes, or the anticipated changes to structure, and then there is-- Trying to think of the word. You've had all different functions going into consultation because everyone was reviewing the structure.

Do you think Debenhams is discounting for that market share?

Well I think that the promotional calendar has got more competitive in order to keep fighting for that space. I would have to be inclined to agree that yes, it's more so been through activity like that than big strides being changed in the product improvement. If divisions are going through consultation and people are being disrupted and a sourcing function is being dismantled, for want of a better word, I think that it takes Debenhams a good few months at least to be able to change their product with their supply base and no disruptions. It must be very small but subtle changes that are being made. I do think they're being made, but I think holding enough market share in a competitive market has got to be more to do with price promotions than it has with changes in the customers they're picking up on.

What do you think are the core factors that explain the pressure that the fashion and clothing segment of Debenhams has been under over the last few years?

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