Trading at Debenhams is “showing pockets of growth” despite a slow start to the summer, managing director of fashion and home Steven Cook has told Drapers.
He said the department store is seeing green shoots in key womenswear categories after a challenging 12 months.
It has been focusing on creating a more distinctive design handwriting within its in-house womenswear labels – which include No 1 Jenny Packham, Star by Julien Macdonald and Nine by Savannah Miller – to create a clearer proposition for customers.
“Our team has been working to define our brands more tightly and really keep them distinct from each other,” Cook said. “Despite the wider challenges facing the retail industry, we know that our customer is prepared to pay for the right product.”
However, he added that last month’s heatwave came too late in the season to boost the retailer’s summer clothing sales.
Debenhams is gearing up to launch two new in-house womenswear labels for autumn 19. An as-yet-to-be-named brand will be unveiled to customers at the end of September and spans clothing, footwear, accessories, sleepwear and activewear.
“It is very relaxed, very comfortable. Stylised but ageless,” Cook explained. “We’re very well known for our occasionwear, so this will bring something different to the Debenhams offer. This is the first time we’ve had the chance to build a brand from ground zero, and really think about what we’re currently giving the customer and what we’re not.”
Debenhams will also launch a capsule collection with Kate MacMahon, the winner of last year’s Debenhams Emerging Talent Award at Graduate Fashion Week. The 12-piece range is centred around sustainability. Each piece has been constructed from a minimum of 50% sustainable fibres, which include organic cotton, recycled wool mixes and Lenzing materials.
Prices will range from £18 for T-shirts to £150 for a puffer coat and will be available in 12 Debenhams stores, as well as online. Key pieces include a printed wrap dress with a belt and a trench coat with neon orange stitching.
The collection builds on themes MacMahon established in her graduate collection while studying at Edinburgh College of Art, which used wadding found in old mannequins.
“A lot of sustainable collection are very neutral, so I wanted to show that you can create a sustainable collection that is bright and colourful,” MacMahon told Drapers.
Cook added: “I always start with the product. Customers might not want to pay more for something just because it is sustainable, but if the product is right, is at a good price point and is also sustainable, then it is a win-win.”
Debenhams’ collection with designer Jenny Packham will also be expanded to include a full lingerie offer for the first time from autumn 19.
The department store is expected to announce a new chief executive in the coming weeks. Debenhams entered into a pre-pack administration in April and then-chief executive Sergio Bucher exited, leaving non-executive chairman, Terry Duddy, in the role of interim executive chairman.