The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) is targeting large towns and cities for its new department store chain, Days, as it readies a nationwide roll-out.
Days Department Store
Speaking at the store launch last night, EWM director of retail destinations Paul Stirling told Drapers the town had the right demographic for the EWM customer: “For us, Carmarthen was a fantastic town to start with, with great demographics. The building offered an ideally sized space that was near a town square, and it was readily available.
“We already had a few individual stores here. Peacocks and EWM – which we are in the process of bringing into the department store – are just round the corner, so we already had a loyal customer base. We have had great feedback from our customers.”
The second Days department store will be in Bedford and is expected to open in November, as part of a plan to roll out 50 department stores across the UK.
“It’s a case of finding locations with the right size and demographics, with strong footfall. We are looking to open in large towns and possibly cities,” Stirling added.
EWM is poised to buy more brands following its string of recent purchases and Stirling said the department stores will evolve “depending on future acquisitions”.
The retailer is in the process of creating an online offering for Days, and is looking at introducing click-and-collect services.
“The group is developing an online platform as we speak, to be rolled out in the immediate future. A lot of our brands already have their own online offering, so it is a case of bringing it all together,” Stirling confirmed.
He added the group is also considering how to make store visits “experiential” for shoppers by adding service-based initiatives where appropriate.
One department store source said the plans were “very ambitious” given the difficult retailer environment: “Department stores have been hit very hard, so everyone is questioning the department store model, particularly as customers can buy the products directly themselves nowadays.”
He added: “Philip Day [EWM CEO] is facing a big challenge. It’s all about how the brands perform as standalones, and I would say the brands he has are not the strongest in that respect. His key priorities will be getting the brand right, understanding the customers involved, developing brand awareness and then building the brand from these.”
The source added that, by taking on the old BHS unit, it is likely EWM managed to negotiate a shorter lease, avoiding the overheads and rental rates faced by more established department store chains.
One property source agreed the success of the expansion will depend on the brand mix: “It’s a mass value proposition that could mean good business, if it gets more brands under its belt. We are seeing more consolidation in the retail sector in general, so it’s good positioning. The move to department stores is about the economics of space, in bringing all of its brands to one location.”