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Debenhams, London

The newly launched Debenhams flagship store on London’s Oxford Street is more destination than department store; equipped with three stylish restaurants, a cutting edge atrium, enormous skylight and a kinetic facade that moves in response to the wind.

Some might argue that this stalwart of British retailing has taken its time and is now playing catch up. It’s true. Debenhams’ stores have followed a very conventional, ‘tried and tested’ approach to retailing for many years. Even when launching new stores, up until this one, very little had changed in terms of shopfittings, display and visual merchandising. Unfortunately, for this much loved brand, the main reason to shop there was price.

But, all that has just changed with the opening of this truly groundbreaking store. The new Oxford Street flagship has literally become a retail beacon. The 55 year old facade is almost unidentifiable, hidden beneath thousands of suspended aluminium panels that move and reflect light to give a fluid effect. The same applies to the interior where the dark and dingy Debenhams of old has been replaced with a light, airy and contemporary shopping space.

The new store layout has the look and feel of a designer mall rather than a single store with the atrium as a focal point and all the different departments feeding off from it. Natural light floods in from the numerous shop fronts and entrances which have been opened up. More light from the phenomenal new 25 metre skylight above the atrium reflects and shines onto all the varying shades of white creating an ethereal quality. It is an incredible transformation. The old store is unrecognisable. The elevators, riding up and down and linking the many floors, take up the space immediately below this beautiful architectural feature and create a real welcome buzz as you climb up through the floors.

As you enter on the ground floor the transformation is immediately apparent. The environment takes on the main characteristics of the concept; a glossy white, textural box showcases the vibrant, multi-branded offer perfectly. Signage is kept monochrome throughout to enhance the simplicity of the space and give it a fashionable edge. And, space, lots and lots of space, around and in between the fixtures and fittings, display stands, cabinets and counters - space to observe, to shop, to think and to enjoy the experience.

50% of Debenhams fashion business is exclusive with the majority of that offer branded as ‘Designers at Debenhams’ and this new concept creates a suitably fitting environment. Designers are given more prominence, their ranges highlighted and space is dedicated for directional and curated range showcases. Throughout the store display cabinetry and counters are monochrome; in menswear white plinths edged with black have display mannequins mounted on top. These are interspersed with aluminium framed display tables that feature white lacquered tops for folded stock. Black pillars edged with chrome complete the look. Womenswear is similar but the pillars are mirrored for a more glamorous touch. Footwear follows suit and mens footwear has a slightly more robust quality with sleek wooden display tables with white lacquered tops, plus dark, metal framed freestanding display units with wooden shelves. The new beauty hall, also in monochrome has become its biggest and best to date.

To increase overall dwell time and spend instore, each of the three restaurants has been tailored to its location, its adjacencies and its target audience. Each restaurant serves a different mindset, on a different level; an uplifting and fresh family restaurant with a classic menu is located on the children’s floor and is flooded with light. The space is divided up with large wooden panels. A self service cafe on the second floor brings the pace and vibrancy of the high street to the high energy fashionistas and in the basement, an utterly gorgeous, premium bistro provides a relaxed and calm meeting place for those who are not in a hurry.

Debenhams is also committed to creating a seamless shopping experience and has placed a series of fully equipped instore terminals to allow the customer access to an even wider range online. Items can be ordered and paid for there and then. Dalziel and Pow has created a masterpiece for Debenhams, a totally future proof store, which will undoubtedly propel them up the fashion stakes and to the forefront of our minds.

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                           Debenhams, London
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