Shops and jobs could go in big Debenhams revamp

General Views of Debenhams on Londons Oxford street on January 10th 2011

Hundreds of jobs in danger as Debenhams boss announces warehouse closures

LONDON, April 20 Debenhams, Britain's second-largest department store group, on Thursday detailed a plan to return to growth by making it stand out more on the high street with an enhanced digital offering.

The chain has three stores in Cumbria, in Carlisle, Workington and Barrow.

One measure already under way will see around 2,000 more staff moved to customer-facing roles, with stores decluttered amid a 10% reduction in stock options, with stock replenished faster and new in-store formats to be tested.

But Bucher's "Debenhams Redesigned" plans took centre stage, as the ex Amazon executive stated that a chief objective was to "define clearly what Debenhams stands for and simplify the way we operate to benefit customers today and therefore shareholders in the future", aiming to drive the frequency of visits on and offline as well as "leveraging existing assets, including good stores in strong locations; leading market positions in key product categories; and profitable and growing worldwide business". Shopping with Debenhams should be effortless, reliable and fun whichever channel our customers use.

Six months after he joined Britain's second-biggest department store chain, Sergio Bucher, a former Amazon executive who now runs Debenhams, also unveiled plans to cut back on in-house brands and stock, exit some worldwide markets and redeploy about 2,000 staff to customer-facing roles. "We will be a destination for "social shopping" with mobile the unifying platform for interacting with our customers".

The group's chief executive, Sergio Bucher, who is a former Amazon boss, is in charge of this project.

He said he wanted to de-clutter stores after customers complained it was like a "treasure hunt" shopping in some branches.

"This will deliver a step-change in our customer experience", said Mr Bucher.

The announcement came the same day that competitor Marks & Spencer Group Plc unveiled the first details of a five-year program to add dedicated food stores and shut some of its main town-centre sites.

Debenhams saw a more robust performance online in the United Kingdom, where sales rose 1.7 per cent, while it added that trading was "mixed" across its global division.

Its overseas arm, which is led by its biggest global business, Magasin du Nord in Denmark, received a boost from the weak pound, with operating profits jumping 12.3 per cent to £26.4m.

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