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Focus on experiences not just more "stuff" says Debenhams chairman

Published
today Apr 5, 2017
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The chairman of Debenhams has urged retailers to think about offering consumers more experiences rather than selling them more “stuff”. Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Dubai, Sir Ian Cheshire said modern consumers, particularly in the Millennial age group, want to do more than just buy products.


Swimwear is one category Debenhams has prioritised as UK consumers love their foreign holidays



"To them it is experience, not stuff that matters,” he said. ”As a department store, Debenhams sells a lot of beauty products but increasingly that is through a makeover, an experience customers can share with friends and combine with a coffee shop visit. It's not enough simply to have the stuff. You've got to wrap it in a set of experiences.”

Debenhams has already begun the shift away from just product to experience-plus-product with greater focus on growth areas such as beauty, gifting foods and swimwear (closely linked to the UK consumer’s love of foreign holidays). And its recent tech boost for its personal shopping service is another reflection of this trend.

Its move reflects that of rival department store chain House of Fraser, which recently announced a major shake-up to focus on its core customer. It said at the time that it would add services such as yoga studios, well-being centres and champagne bars, plus more sales-driver events and better in-store customer service.

Meanwhile, the Debenhams chairman said Tuesday that consumers are buying more online and that stores need to work hard to get shoppers through their doors with experiences being one way to do this. And this is especially important for younger consumers who see shopping as a social event and spend more time in physical stores when they do venture out.

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