The City’s downer on Debenhams this year has proved to be a little harsh.
Good cost control and a focus on winning back market share through vastly improved Designers At and own label ranges has meant like-for-like sales have been no where near the falls seen at Next and Marks & Spencer.
An impressive new store fit unveiled at Liverpool One earlier this year resulted in a reduction in fashion options and the broadening out of each Designers At sub-brand to deliver a full wardrobe of options for each designer-loyal customer group.
Debenhams has also introduced a new fashion classics department to compete with the likes M&S to service shoppers looking for basics by product type. The significant work on product and store design under Templeman all show signs that this business is moving back in the right direction and a reshuffle of the board which resulted in the departure of managing director Angela Spindler and the promotion of the highly respected Suzanne Harlow.
However, Debenhams is still burdened with £1 billion of debt which means it can’t afford many slip ups in the current downturn. But Templeman’s vast retail experience should stand the department store in good stead for a tough 2009.