In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the retail industry may appear to be at a standstill. However, behind the scenes, there are still dynamic developments taking place. One such development is the recent announcement by Hammerson that Next, a popular British retailer, will be opening beauty halls in five empty Debenhams spaces within its shopping centers.

Although it has only been less than two weeks since this news broke, there have already been some changes to the initial plans. The Bullring and Silverburn, two of the largest malls, have been removed from the list of locations where Next will be opening its beauty halls. The Debenhams store in Bullring was expected to maintain its current branding, and it appears that the Silverburn store in Glasgow may also retain its branding. This change was reportedly due to the decision made by Mark Gifford, the chairman of Debenhams, who blocked Next’s takeover deals for Bullring and Silverburn. These locations were highly sought-after due to their high footfall and reputation as prominent shopping destinations.

The decision to block the deals was made after Gifford discovered that Hammerson had held secret talks with Next. It seems that Next is not Debenhams’ preferred rival, as it had previously won the Ted Baker kidswear creation and sales license from the struggling department store retailer.

Earlier this month, Debenhams announced that it would be vacating five stores in Hammerson shopping centers due to an inability to reach a favorable rent agreement with the landlord. However, since then, the affected staff, who were initially informed of their job losses, have been brought back on and are currently on furlough instead of being laid off entirely.

Despite the setback with Bullring and Silverburn, Next is still planning to proceed with its beauty concept in the remaining three locations: Oracle in Reading, Highcross in Leicester, and Centrale in Croydon. Additionally, Next is reportedly in talks to secure contracts for another 10 former Debenhams beauty halls.

The beauty industry has long been identified as a key growth area within the UK retail industry. Even after the crisis caused by the coronavirus subsides, it is expected that this trend will continue. Many retailers have recognized the potential of the beauty segment, with Harrods being another notable player working on a standalone specialist beauty concept.

As the retail industry faces unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that strategic moves and partnerships are still shaping the future of the sector. The recent developments surrounding Next and Debenhams are a testament to the resilience and adaptability of retailers in these difficult times.

Useful links:
Retail Gazette: Debenhams Chairman Blocks Next Beauty Concept Shops in Bullring and Silverburn
Retail Week: Explainer – the Short Life and Long Fall of Debenhams