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Three department stores redefining retail as experience

As Debenhams boss Sergio Bucher reveals the retailer’s new strategy of focusing on experiential shopping, Drapers looks at how other department stores have rethought the in-store experience.

Selfridges launches The Body Studio 31


Selfridges has embarked on a £300m regeneration of its London flagship over the past two and half years. In April last year, it unveiled its 37,000 sq ft Body Studio dedicated to lingerie, swimwear, sportswear, sleepwear and loungewear. Stocking more than 100 brands, the new space ties into consumer’s ongoing interest in fitness and wellness.

Alongside the Body Studio, the department store has also revamped its accessories hall to include new cocktail bar The Fount and shop-in-shops for luxury brands for Burberry, Chanel, Celine and Gucci, amongst others. The new space is filled with unusual visual merchandising to capture customer’s attention, including Loewe bags displayed on 200-year-old millstones imported from Spain, Anya Hindmarch bags around a lava lamp and Gucci accessories on a magnetic wall.

To commemorate the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, Selfridges also launched an instore theatre, allowing customer to see a specially commissioned production of Much Ado About Nothing.


John lewis app

John Lewis

Over at John Lewis, new managing director Paula Nickolds is also seeking to reinvent department store retailing. As well as revamping its beauty halls to include new brands and offering in-store experiences such as nail bars, eyebrow threading and spas, Nickolds is putting the focus on service to help improve customer experience. Shop floor staff will be trained as “experts” in particular categories; customers will then be able to book consultations with them.

John Lewis is also investing in technology to create a smoother customer journey. Staff members will receive iPhone loaded with a ‘Partner app’ in order to provide information quickly about stock availability, products and orders.


harvey nichols beauty lounge the parlour

Harvey Nichols

Luxury department store Harvey Nichols opened men’s concept store Project 109 in May last year, alongside a refreshed menswear department. The concept store is home to cafe and cocktail bar, barber shop and an installation space, which will showcase a series of pop-ups and immersive experiences, encouraging consumers to stay instore for longer. Like John Lewis and Debenhams, Harvey Nichols has also chosen to invest in beauty. Its new beauty lounge offers customers a range of beauty services, a dedicated beauty concierge and extended opening hours. 

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