Debenhams is looking to take on rivals Marks & Spencer and Next through aggressive growth in its women’s footwear departments across the UK.
The department store chain, which currently ranks sixth among its direct competitors, is looking to double market share by expanding its existing range and reaching out to new brands, largely international players.
Autumn 12 will see a series of store and product launches rolled out, with the footwear departments at each of the 170 branches nationwide given an extra 25% of space to house the new ranges.
The company is currently putting in a number of new shopfits, and the expansion will take place over the rest of the year. Some of its 69 international branches will also be getting a facelift.
Debenhams’ senior footwear brand merchandiser Joanne Parker said she had earmarked Faith, Designers at Debenhams such as J by Jasper Conran, and international brands to receive the biggest product increases. They are also being “heavily targeted” in consumer marketing campaigns. Parker said: “We want people to think of Debenhams as the key destination for footwear, offering a wide choice of shoes to suit all occasions, from formal workwear to eveningwear and casual.”
This is not the first department store to prioritise footwear as a key area of growth. Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harrods have all increased space dedicated to the division as they vie to become the go-to destination.
However, Parker insisted Debenhams had not lost out by expanding after its rivals, saying its selection made it stand out “in an overly crowded high street”.
She added: “Footwear has always been a desirable product, but the market has drastically changed from shoe sites to one-stop shops where department stores can provide a more integrated offer.
“Debenhams has the unique advantage of being able to showcase high street fashion alongside our exclusive Designer at Debenhams brands. We are able to offer a diverse selection of shoes, are very confident in our shoe offer and the success relies on our ranges catering for all budgets.”
The plans have met with approval from footwear suppliers, with one noting there was “potential for them to do more”.