Debenhams predicts ‘a new golden age in retail’ at BHETA forum

Debenhams trading director for home Steve Lightfoot has forecast a “new golden age in retail by creating experience” for the department store group.

Speaking on the day that Debenhams announced a 5.5% jump in group pre-tax profit for its half year results, the headline guest speaker at gave an insight into the retailer’s strategic plans, to a capacity audience at the latest British Home Enhancement Trading Association (BHETA) forum. The event was held on April 14 at BHETA’s headquarters in Birmingham.

Steve discussed his views on the market and the future direction of home within Debenhams, and outlined opportunities for suppliers to help the chain achieve its commercial objectives.

Opportunities for BHETA members were made clear as he outlined the retailer’s commitment to building its non-apparel business in the form of home, furniture, gift, toys and restaurant.

He explained Debenhams’ intention to continue the evolution of its online presence but in tandem with the development of its stores, a reinvention of its traditional promotional strategy and a significant investment in infrastructure and systems to support its plans.

Key to its success are 50 refurbished stores, five new stores (with three more to follow), stronger own brands, bigger power brands and an increase in full price sell through.

Steve’s views are a result of Debenhams’ commitment to customer engagement, as confirmed by the company’s extensive investment in consumer research.

Research into – and knowledge of – future consumer motivation was key to other speakers’ contribution to the Forum.

Paul Magee, founder of software provider Phocas, discussed ideas on how suppliers can turn business data into a tool that can be used both internally and to help develop customer relationships.

He covered how to interrogate figures for preparation for sales meetings, sales analysis, salesforce monitoring, prompts to action, linked sales, promotions and marketing intelligence in general.

The forum was also briefed on marketing opportunities available at the co-located Exclusively Housewares and Exclusively Electrical trade shows, which take place in London in June. Both exhibitions are run annually for the housewares retail industry on behalf of BHETA. Highlighted were the trends provided by forecaster Scarlet Opus and sponsored by BHETA.

The event included a salutary lesson in putting consumer research and trends awareness into practice in terms of new product development protection.

BHETA’s legal associate Howes Percival outlined the lessons of the recent Trunki versus Kiddee Case legal action in IP (Intellectual Property) terms.

The Supreme Court recently dismissed a registered design infringement case brought by Magmatic against PMS International. In a judgment handed down on March 9, the Court ruled that the European design registration of Trunki, Magmatic’s ride-on children’s suitcase, was not infringed by PMS’s lookalike product, Kiddee Case.

Such was the level of discussion provoked by this presentation that BHETA announced it would be devoting a whole forum to IP legislation including copyright, design registration, trademarks and patents.

Will Jones, housewares sector director of BHETA explained: “This whole event focused on creating and acting on consumer knowledge – buying habits, trends, profiles – in order to develop product which meets the needs of modern retail.

“That level of investment needs absolute and effective protection, which is where IP comes into play. We will definitely be following this up at a future event.”


l-r: Debenhams trading director for home Steve Lightfoot with BHETA housewares sector director Will Jones

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