Debenhams chairman warns retailers against just selling “stuff”

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The chairman of department store chain Debenhams has warned retailers against selling too much “stuff”.

Speaking at World Retail Congress in Dubai, Sir Ian Cheshire said in the age of the internet and social media, which have made it hard for bricks-and-mortar retailers to compete with online rivals, retailers needed to up their game in order to be winners.

This included providing “real services” and giving consumers – particularly millennials – great experiences rather than focusing on just selling goods.

He also believes more investment in staff training is needed so as to provide this “real service”.

“The next generation is behaving differently, spending differently and interacting differently,” Cheshire said at the conference.

“To them it is experience, not stuff that matters.


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“As a department store, Debenhams sells a lot of beauty products but increasingly that is through a makeover, an experience customers can share with friends and combine with a coffee shop visit.

“It’s not enough simply to have the stuff. You’ve got to wrap it in a set of experiences.”

Cheshire added that ecommerce, particularly mobile sales, had been the biggest “game-changer” in retail in recent years.

In addition, although consumers are buying more online and going out less, when they do go out spend more time in stores and often spend more money.

“It is an opportunity for great retailers offering unique products and great experiences to build truly great global brands but it means that the bar has been raised,” Cheshire said.

“Just showing up with stuff and hoping someone is going buy it doesn’t cut it anymore.”

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