May 7, 2020
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Next to launch standalone beauty halls in ex-Debenhams spaces

May 7, 2020

Debenhams’ loss is Next’s gain as the latter plans to open a new standalone beauty concept in five soon-to-be-ex-Debenhams spaces owned by Hammerson. These are now due to close after the department store chain failed to strike a rent deal with its landlord.

Beauty will be key for Next in future as it expands into a standalone concept in former Debenhams stores

Next has signed ‘flexible leases’ to take over the beauty halls of the Debenhams stores in the Bullring in Birmingham, The Oracle in Reading, Highcross in Leicester, Silverburn in Glasgow and Centrale in Croydon.

The new premium beauty concept will add to the existing beauty offer that Next has been growing recently via its online operations. And with more than a thousand jobs to be lost at Debenhams as a result of the closure of its stores, there could be some opportunities at Next as the retailer said it’s looking for experienced staff with premium beauty retail experience to operate its beauty concept.

“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,” its CEO Simon Wolfson said.

The company has been ramping up its beauty offer after seeing success with its Fabled by Marie Claire venture that launched online around 18 months ago. It acquired ownership of the business from Ocado last summer and now sells 200+ brands, including some of the big names in luxury such as YSL, Armani, Bulgari, Estée Lauder and Lancôme.

The Next development comes after Debenhams couldn’t reach a deal on rents with Hammerson for the stores. It means more than 1,000 jobs will go at Debenhams as the retailer — which is currently operating in administration — lays off both directly-employed staff and those working in the many concessions at the five stores lose their jobs.

The stores hadn’t been part of the rent agreement Debenhams announced last month covering 120 of the firm’s 142 shops. But the firm had hoped to be able to reach a deal with Hammerson.

However, the property giant has its own troubles at the moment, including the recent collapse of its £400 million sale of seven retail parks after the buyer pulled out. It’s now one of a number of landlords that are less willing to accommodate rent reduction requests from big companies, especially when other tenants are waiting in the wings.

But of course, Next isn’t taking over the full space that Debenhams is vacating and Hammerson said it would look at opportunities to repurpose the remaining floors of the five stores. This would have the benefit of reducing its exposure to a department stores sector that could be one of the big losers from the coronavirus pandemic and the broader shift online.

Hammerson had already started on this journey before the pandemic hit and has planning consent to change the use of the House of Fraser store at its Oracle mall, with the space being pre-let to leisure firms.

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