Sep 10, 2018
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Debenhams calls in KPMG to assess options, reveals new digital beauty strategy

Sep 10, 2018

Debenhams announced the launch of two major beauty initiatives on Monday. Debuting this month, they’re part of its aim “to further strengthen its position as a leader in the premium beauty market.”


It’s taking a deep dive into the digital side of the beauty sector with the UK’s first loyalty-based digital social platform and is also aiming to drive physical retailing forward with two new “digitally enabled Beauty Halls of the Future”.

All of which is great news. But the headlines aren’t all positive around the retailer at the moment.

Several reports on Sunday said KPMG has been brought on board by Debenhams to look at what they claimed were “contingency measures” and “restructuring options” in the face of unprecedented pressure on the department store sector.

It seems that in the face of a potential cash crunch, a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) isn’t out of the question, the reports said. But they added that it’s early days and other options are being considered. And of course, there’s also the potential for the profitable Magasin du Nord Danish operation to be sold for up to £200 million, which would certainly boost the firm’s coffers.

Some analysts think the company would have to offload a sizeable chunk of its 170 stores in any restructuring, even thought he vast majority of them are profitable. 

The company hasn’t confirmed anything though and a Debenhams spokesman simply said that it “frequently works with different advisers on various projects in the normal course of business.”

But it had a lot more to say about its new beauty initiative. The loyalty-based digital social platform launches this week “and puts customers’ front and centre in the conversation on beauty.” 

And the company “is redesigning the in-store beauty retailing experience with two digitally enabled Beauty Halls of the Future, opening in the brand’s new flagship store in Watford and newly renovated Meadowhall store later this month.

“The initiatives drive a ‘digital first’ strategy for the department store and see both online and offline environments created that encourage customers to explore, discover and debate all things beauty,” it said.

The Beauty Club Community is optimised for both desktop and mobile, it enables users to give and receive real time, peer-to-peer beauty advice, discuss the latest beauty topics and trends and build rewards, earning points and recognition for their contribution to the forum.


Key participants will include the 6,000 beauty advisors in Debenhams’s store network and the company believes the content “will inform and educate customers on how to shop smart whilst driving loyalty and revenue.”  

Meanwhile, those “Beauty Halls of the Future,” are being designed to “create a modern, welcoming and easy-to-navigate, interactive environment where customers can learn, discover and experiment with products from established beauty houses and breakthrough brands.” 

Some 20% of the space will be serviced by Debenhams rather than individual brands with flexible spaces curated into themed zones such as the Skincare Lab and Colour Lab. Men’s grooming and premium haircare are being added as new areas for the retailer, as well as a dedicated space for travel sizes known as the Minibar.  

And a Beauty Club House space will host multibrand advice and convert into an eventing area for in-store events.  

The aim is to make beauty spaces more flexible and encourage trial, as well as giving more space to the category overall (Meadowhall’s Beauty Hall will occupy a third more square footage.)

The company also said that brands will be zoned by genre. That means there will be a Vibrant Catwalk area, housing directional brands such as Kat Von D and Urban Decay; while Replenish and Nourish will be for skincare brands; and there will be a Perfumery area; and that Men’s Lab space.

Blow Ltd will also offer services such as manicures, blow dries, lash and brow treatments and makeovers at a Beauty Bar and there will be a food and drink offer too, in order to encourage consumers to stay as long in the area as possible.

Richard Cristofoli, MD of beauty and marketing at Debenhams, said: “We know that customers have high trust of peer-to-peer recommendations and aim to capitalise on the collective power of beauty conversations to create Europe’s largest Beauty Community. Beauty shopping is a highly social activity; there are over 170 million #makeup and 236 million #beauty photos on Instagram, making it one of the most engaging topics on social media.”

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