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Why we no longer love department stores

Why we no longer love department stores
Business
Department stores were once the main attraction on many high streets, but these days shoppers appear increasingly able to resist their charms.

This week House of Fraser denied rumours it is on the brink of collapse .

Debenhams is planning to shut stores as profits fall - and BHS spectacularly collapsed in 2016, putting 11,000 people out of work.

Yet some chains continue to prosper, so where have the weaker performers gone wrong?

Diane Wehrle of market research firm Springboard says the worst department stores "haven t changed in 10, maybe 20 years".

This is because they have not invested enough in upgrading their shop floors, product ranges or online offerings.

"As we have had access to global products our standards as consumers have increased - we can also buy anything we want online," she says.

"So if we are to go shopping we need to have a good experience, excitement and entertainment. A lot of today s department stores don t supply that."

Ms Wehrle adds that their unique selling point - offering a host of different brands under the same roof - has also been weakened in the internet age.

Image caption We are buying more of our clothes from fast fashion retailers like Primark

Many of today s ailing department stores focus on fashion - but they may not have the right merchandise, says Stephen Springham, head of retail insights at Knight Frank.

"It s a part of the problem at Debenhams which hasn t kept up with the times," he says.

"The range isn t terrible but it s a very competitive market and being not terrible is not good enough."

Meanwhile, Mr Springham says most of House of Fraser s goods are "other brands you can buy somewhere else", while their in-house brands are not particularly strong: "There isn t that point of difference."

It comes as more shoppers, both young and old, are buying their clothes from nimbler "fast fashion" retailers such as Asos, Primark and Zara that can also beat them on price.
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