• 23 August 2023
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How Debenhams Can Turn Around Its Business with These 4 Solutions

How Debenhams Can Turn Around Its Business with These 4 Solutions

Debenhams Case Study: Challenges and Solutions

Debenhams is a British chain of department stores that began in 1778. It offers a range of products, such as clothing, beauty products, furniture, and more. It operates more than 200 stores in the UK and Ireland. However, Debenhams has faced many difficulties recently. It might go bankrupt. It has attempted to solve its problems several times. In this case study, we will examine Debenhams’ main difficulties. We will also propose some solutions to assist Debenhams. We want Debenhams to improve and be more competitive

Challenge 1: Competition from online retailers

Debenhams has struggled to keep up with the changing consumer preferences and shopping habits, as more people shop online and look for cheaper, faster, and more convenient options. Online retailers such as Boohoo, Asos, and Amazon have been able to offer lower prices, wider selections, and better customer service than Debenhams . Debenhams has also failed to invest enough in its own website and digital capabilities, making it less attractive and user-friendly for online shoppers.

Challenge 2: High store costs and debts

Debenhams has too many stores that are underperforming and have high fixed costs, such as rent, rates, wages, and maintenance. These costs have become harder to cover as sales have declined and profits have eroded. Debenhams has also been burdened by a high level of debt, which was partly caused by a leveraged buyout by a consortium of private equity firms in 2003. The debt has limited Debenhams’ ability to invest in its business and cope with the challenges of the retail sector .

Challenge 3: Lack of differentiation and relevance

Customers have lost their interest in Debenhams because it does not offer distinctive and innovative products, brands, and services. Instead, it relies too much on concessions and third-party brands that are available elsewhere on the high street or online. Moreover, it has failed to refresh its product range and brand identity, making it seem outdated and boring compared to its competitors .

Hope for the future: Acquisition by Boohoo

Boohoo, an online fashion retailer, recently bought the company. It wants to make Debenhams an online-only platform. This could help Debenhams’ brand and customer base. Boohoo has skills in e-commerce, marketing, and logistics. But this also means the end of Debenhams’ physical stores. Thousands of jobs will be lost. The high street will suffer more.

Suggested Business Turnaround Action Plan for Debenhams

Debenhams is a UK department store chain. Learn about its problems and solutions in this case study. Find out how Boohoo plans to save Debenhams.

Some possible solutions to turn around its business and restore its competitiveness.

Solution 1: Reduce the number of stores and focus on the most profitable ones

Debenhams has too many stores that are underperforming and have high fixed costs. By closing or selling some of these stores, Debenhams can save on rent, rates, wages, and maintenance, and free up cash to invest in the remaining stores. Debenhams should also renegotiate the terms of its leases with landlords to lower its rent or switch to turnover-based rents.

Solution 2: Improve the online presence and customer experience

Online sales and digital innovation are areas where Debenhams has fallen behind its competitors. To improve its website and mobile app, Debenhams should invest more in making them more user-friendly, attractive, and secure. It should also provide more delivery and collection options, such as click-and-collect, same-day delivery, or locker pick-up. Additionally, it should enhance its customer service, both online and offline, by offering more personalized recommendations, loyalty programs, feedback channels and after-sales support.

Solution 3: Revamp the product range and brand identity

Customers have lost their interest in Debenhams because it does not offer differentiation and relevance. To refresh its product range, Debenhams should introduce more exclusive and innovative brands, especially in the areas of fashion, beauty, and homeware. It should also collaborate with celebrities, influencers, or designers to create limited-edition collections or campaigns that can generate buzz and excitement. Moreover, it should reposition its brand identity by emphasizing its heritage, quality and value proposition.

Solution 4: Strengthen the financial position and governance

A high level of debt has burdened Debenhams and hampered its growth potential. To reduce its debt, Debenhams should sell off non-core assets or raise new capital from investors or lenders. It should also improve its cash flow management by optimizing its inventory levels, payment terms and working capital cycle. Furthermore, it should enhance its corporate governance by appointing a new board of directors with relevant expertise and experience in the retail sector. Finally, it should adopt a more transparent and accountable reporting system that can monitor its performance indicators and key risks.


This case study shows how a traditional department store chain, Debenhams, has failed to adapt to the changing retail environment and customer expectations. It has faced multiple challenges, such as online competition, high costs, debts, and lack of differentiation and relevance. Several times, it has tried to restructure and rescue its business, but none of them have been successful. The latest attempt was the acquisition by Boohoo, which plans to make Debenhams an online-only platform.

This may offer some hope for Debenhams’ brand and customer base, but it also means the end of Debenhams’ physical presence and thousands of jobs. Debenhams’ story is a lesson for other retailers who want to survive and thrive in the digital age. They need to adopt a business turnaround action plan that includes reducing the number of stores and focusing on the most profitable ones, improving the online presence and customer experience, revamping the product range and brand identity, and strengthening the financial position and governance. By doing so, they can overcome the challenges they face and create a competitive advantage in the market.

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