Is this the end of the department store?

By Bob Morrell on June 28, 2018

As Debenhams issues another profit warning, hot on the heels of House of Fraser announcing closures of stores, and the demise and dodgy out-look of BHS and M&S we must ask this tough question.


What is the point of a department store in the modern world? The usefulness of departments has diminished entirely. Now we have department stores in shopping centres surrounded by alternative shops. I thought the point of them was to be a beacon on the high street – quite literally a one-stop shop?


The dilution of brand and service over recent years means that many staff in these stores are employed by the concessions rather than the shop. So it’s a shopping centre in the middle of a load of other shops – in a shopping centre. The time must have come to admit defeat.


Why haven’t these massive brands, when they had money, looked at what was coming – the vastness of an online department store which requires me to sit and buy in my own time, at any time.

Omni-channel means any time – and yet where was the urge from these retailers to visit their online offering – and they’ve expected us to visit the stores as well as buying online – rather than adapting their brands overtime.


The answer was consistency – from staff in store, from contact centres and from websites – and that lack of consistency is the department stores downfall.


One thing I feel certain of, in 20 years’ time the department store will be an unusual artefact.