When we reported the demise of Croydon’s Debenhams store yesterday, the question posed was “who might move into the large store space next?”
And the answer soon offered up was: Next.
Hammerson was able to play hardball over the second CVA by Debenhams in the space of 12 months because they had managed to line up Next to take up some of the space to be vacated in their Centrale and four other shopping malls around the country. Yesterday, they announced that the clothing retailer will open five standalone beauty halls in former Debenhams stores.
Next said it had signed flexible leases with Hammerson for space in the flagship sites at the Bullring in Birmingham, The Oracle in Reading, Highcross in Leicester, Silverburn in Glasgow and Croydon’s Centrale.
In a departure from its established clothes retail operation, Next will brand the space “The Beauty Hall from Next”.
“This is an exciting opportunity to work with existing and new beauty brand partners to create a new force in beauty retailing – bringing our online business to life through premium store environments in some of the UK’s most important retail locations,” said Simon Wolfson, Next’s chief exec.
In Centrale, it seems likely that the Next Beauty Hall will occupy the ground floor area of the former department store. Debenhams had traded across four floors, including a basement level. “The main thing is that it will help avoid the place appearing too empty when Debenhams moves out,” said one trader in the town centre.
Next will be taking on Boots, Superdrug, John Lewis and what’s left of Debenhams in a health and beauty market worth £22billion a year.
Despite the coronavirus lockdown and huge recession on the horizon, Next snapped up the space in five shopping malls owned by Hammerson, seeing an opportunity for growth by extending its online beauty business to physical stores.
Hammerson shares, which have lost four-fifths of their value since December, were up around 1 per cent on the London Stock Exchange yesterday.
Next, which had a £4.4billion turnover in 2019-2020, says it wants to create a premium retail environment to complement its existing online beauty business, launched in 2018, which sells more than 200 brands, including Estée Lauder, Clinique, Benefit, Origins and Elemis.
Next said it was looking to hire “experienced staff with proven premium beauty retail experience”, which will offer some hope to those facing redundancy from Debenhams. At least 150 workers were employed at Debenhams in Centrale, or worked in concessions there.
“This is a challenging time for all of us, so it’s really encouraging to see strong, innovative brands like Next work with us to plan for the future,” said David Atkins, the Hammerson CEO, with barely disguised relief.
“This is another example of how we are repurposing department store space and improving the shopping experience for consumers.
“The beauty hall from Next is a great concept and it’s a real vote of confidence in our flagship destinations that Next has chosen these locations to launch its new offer.”
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