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Editor’s Comment: Is Day the new driving force of department stores?

Keely Stocker

There are very few people that have had such an impact on the industry while keeping such a low profile as Philip Day.

Originally entering the fashion industry in 2001 as part of the Rutland Partners private equity takeover of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Day has since been involved in numerous deals, continually adding to his retail portfolio.

An enigmatic character, he remains resolutely behind the scenes. But in recent years, if a fashion business has been up for sale, it is likely that his name will have been mentioned as a potential bidder.

Day’s first big deal after EWM was the 2012 acquisition of Peacocks. Since then he has added, among others, Austin Reed, Jaeger, Jane Norman and Berwin & Berwin to his stable of brands.

The exterior of Days in Carmarthen

The exterior of Days in Carmarthen

Alongside these acquisitions, Day opened his own department store concept, Days Department Store in a former BHS site in Carmarthen, Wales in 2017. At the time plans were afoot to roll out 50 department stores across the UK. As yet, there have been no reports of further openings, despite plans for stores in Bedford and Crawley.

However, after Chinese investor C Banner called off its House of Fraser deal last week, Day has been cited as one of the potential investors in the department store group. Could this be the opportunity he has been waiting for to expand his department store chain?

Beyond this speculation, he has had a busy week, adding Calvetron Brands (including Jacques Vert, Eastex and Windsmoor) to his portfolio. It was also revealed by Drapers that he has “mothballed” Jane Norman.

These moves suggest the direction Day is looking to head in with his portfolio, aiming at a more mature target customer with a range of mainstream and premium brands, many of which have fallen out of favour and are in dire need of being reinvigorated.

As the House of Fraser story develops, there may be a chance for Day to sweep up the range of stores that HoF is closing, following his strategy with Carmarthen, opening in regional locations where the brands he owns currently have successful stores. If he were to buy Hof, it seems unlikely that he would open Days Department Store branches in prime locations such as Birmingham or London’s Oxford Street, where rents are high. However, more regional locations, such as Skipton, Altrincham, Grimsby or Lincoln, could work well.

The department store sector is changing and needs to evolve to have any place in the future of fashion. Could Day’s direction drive it forward?

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