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Debenhams Oxford Street – It’s all in the presentation

With its 200th birthday looming on Christmas Day this year Debenhams has given its Oxford Street flagship a facelift with spectacular results.

Last week I was lucky enough to have a tour on the new flagship, and the revamp – which is costing the retailer around £25m – really has taken the years off. The refurbishment has meant a major overhaul of its interior, and while various floor launches have happened this month, the department store will officially unveil its flagship to the public on December 2.

Perhaps the most significant change internally is the creation of a central atrium – much like that seen in rival John Lewis’ Oxford Street flagship – which floods the store with light. Debenhams refurbished its former office space into a new retail floor to make this possible, and the result is a store that feels a lot lighter and more airy compared to before. This takes the number of trading floors to seven, three of which are fashion. Added to this the central escalators are flanked by balconies on each floor where Debenhams has effectively used the space to merchandise its goods, and which it will use for in-store activities during the festive period.

A new designer hall has been created which houses the Designers at Debenhams collections, and ranges from Marios Schwab, Jonathan Saunders, Preen, Henry Holland , Jasper Conran, and John Rocha.

The store’s menswear offer previously resided in the lower ground floor which felt dark, dated, crammed full of product and in desperate need of a revamp. Now the entire department has been shifted to the first floor, with women’s moving up one floor, where sleek fixtures and fittings are given room to breathe with wider walkways – a feature than runs throughout the new store to make the best use of the space – creating an attractive showcase for its menswear. The offer also includes standouts such as the collection by Patrick Grant.

The renovated basement is now home to the lingerie and women’s footwear department. Here customers will find exclusive styles from the retailer’s Faith label and ranges from designers including Henry Holland, Matthew Williamson, Jasper Conran and Jenny Packha in footwear, and lingerie lines such as Reger by Janet Reger. Once they’ve finished shopping customers can stop off at the department store’s new bistro lounge bar for a spot of afternoon tea.

However, as impressive as the interior make-over is, the exterior is also set to be overhauled. An innovative over-cladding system of miniature reflective panels is being created by artist and sculptor Ned Kahn to create a “kinetic façade” that will move in response to the wind, while a glass frontage that will run the length of the building and allow yet more light to pour in will be added to the Oxford Street entrance corner of the building.

Overall the transformation of the store is impressive and befitting of one of the UK’s largest department store chains. No doubt the competition will be looking to up their game as a result.

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