International

Millennials Rediscovering Department Stores

Despite the rise of global fashion chains and online shopping, department stores are starting to enjoy a renaissance after finding ways to attract a new generation of customers, according to Business Insider.

“Millennials love shops just as their parents and grandparents did,” said Andy Street, managing director of U.K. retailer John Lewis, which delivers to 33 countries but doesn’t plan to dilute its British cachet by opening stores abroad.

U.K. retail consultancy Verdict predicts the global sector will return to growth in 2014, and expand to $450 billion by 2019, a 22 percent increase.

Some of the oldest names in the business have turned the corner by restoring the grandeur of flagship stores, celebrating their national identity and attracting tourists. That includes Paris’s Printemps, London’s Harrods and New York’s Macy’s. Tourists account for more than half of sales at some stores in Paris and London, according to Maarten de Groot of the International Association of Department Stores.

For example, the restored Paris flagship stores of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, which respectively feature restored original mosaics and a spectacular stained-glass dome, are must-sees for Chinese visitors.

Some chains are leveraging that tourist appeal to expand globally. Galeries Lafayette plans to open new stores in Doha and Istanbul to join its stores in Casablanca, Jakarta, Dubai and Beijing. Bloomingdale’s best performing store outside Manhattan is the one it opened in Dubai in 2010. China is expected to account for 30 percent of total department store spending in five years.

Overseas investors are also leveraging tourist appeal. China’s Sanpower took control of Britain’s House of Fraser this year, Qatari investors bought Printemps in 2013, and Thailand’s Central Group has acquired Italy’s La Rinascente and Denmark’s Illum.

“The question is how to stay relevant in a market where everything is available everywhere,” Printemps chief executive Paolo de Cesare told the World Retail Congress this month. “We moved from selling products to creating experiences.”

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