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Palmers revamps to fend off Debenhams

East Anglia-based department store business Palmers is revamping two of its stores in the face of competition from incoming Debenhams.

Under the strategy, its fashion store in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk will get a £500,000 makeover and more upmarket brands will be introduced. The 10,000sq ft listed building will have a new fascia and lift installed, and is due to open in September.

Palmers’ flagship store in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, will be revamped in spring 2009.

Palmers fashion director Wendy Cole said the overhaul would help the business fend off competition from Debenhams, which is opening stores in Bury St Edmunds in spring 2009 and Great Yarmouth by the end of this year.

Cole said: “Ideally we wanted to put our fashion and home stores in Bury St Edmunds together in the new Cattle Market shopping centre, but Debenhams got the anchor site. We need to take the store upmarket. There are lots of aspirational shoppers in Bury St Edmunds. We have just introduced Hobbs and Fenn Wright Manson and we’re hoping to get the likes of MaxMara Weekend and Gerard Darel to give us more of a point of difference.

She added: “In Great Yarmouth we’ll keep the current classic brand mix, such as Jacques Vert and Viyella, and try to get the likes of Phase Eight and Principles. It’s our flagship shop so will still be much bigger than the Debenhams store, which is a smaller Desire format shop, and we want to make sure we are still the number one department store in the town.”

Bury St Edmunds town centre is being redeveloped with the Cattle Market shopping centre due to open next year.

The Palmers revamp coincides with the business’s 170th anniversary. Cole and her brother Bruce Sturrock bought out the other 20 family shareholders last year, and closed the store in Newmarket, Suffolk, in June.

Palmers has a turnover of £20 million across its business, which comprises two stores in Bury St Edmunds, two in Great Yarmouth, one in Dereham in Norfolk and a Chadds store in Lowestoft in Suffolk.

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