The retail industry continues to be a game of many halves.
CEO Sergio Bucher blamed an “exceptionally difficult” UK market and, while there is no doubt that is true, we are seeing other retailers overcome these conditions.
Bucher has made numerous changes since he joined in October 2016 and unveiled his “Debenhams Redesigned” strategy in April 2017. At the time he said the focus would be on experiential shopping, digital growth and driving efficiency.
Although these are all things that must be included in any retailer’s strategy, he must surely place product at the forefront alongside store and brand reinvention.
Debenhams’ fashion offer lost its way quite a long time ago, and the retailer no longer resonates with shoppers. Most of its stores look outdated, and it has lost its credibility in the market. Bucher’s to-do list is a long one and many are sceptical that he can turn it around.
One business that appears to be back on track is Bonmarché, which announced a 38.1% jump in profit before tax, to £8m, for the full year to 31 March.
CEO Helen Connolly has been praised for her clear strategy to drive the business forward. Again, digital is a key factor, but alongside this the focus has been on product and building a more agile supply base.
Agility is essential for any business building a “fit for the future” strategy as the pace of change continues to increase, but product remains a vital component.
Attending menswear trade show Pitti Uomo last week, it was fantastic to not just see great product on the stands but also observe how labels are continuing to evolve and offer something new to the market.
Sustainability continues to be a key theme from brands as it becomes increasingly important to consumers. Although exhibitors and buyers in attendance were realistic about the challenges faced in the UK market, the overall mood was positive as newness and creativity shone through. Many retailers could learn from what was on offer at Pitti.