Insight Flash: Consumer Edge UK transaction data dives into recent department store performance.

The future of UK department stores is a hot topic for debate. The Consumer Edge Insight Center assesses the performance of UK department stores in 2023 by leveraging the power of its proprietary UK transaction data. Much has been made about the demise of the archetypal department store, but what does the data suggest?

Key Takeaways from UK Department Store Data

  1. Spend at UK department stores has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels in absolute terms, per data from Consumer Edge.
  2. Fenwick and Liberty are two stores that have outperformed the wider sector since 2018. Both have invested in amplifying the store experience.
  3. John Lewis had the biggest share of wallet in 2023, a function perhaps of its larger store footprint. Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser have both seen their share of wallet decline over the past five years.

UK Shopping Behavior Shifts

Shopping habits have shifted enormously over the past decade. Although the trend towards online retail was firmly in place prior to Covid-19, the pandemic had a significant effect on shopper behavior, accelerating the shift towards online retail. Store-based retailers who lacked an adequate online presence suffered, as competitors with more slick online offerings prospered. Department stores, which have been a fixture on UK high streets for decades and whose model is predicated on store-based retail, were particularly hard hit. Indeed, since 2018, spend at UK department stores, per data from Consumer Edge, has lagged the wider non-food retail sector. In absolute terms, spend has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

UK Department Store Spend Growth

Spend trends over the past five years have not been uniform – they diverge by department store. Of the major UK department stores, 4 out of 7 have seen spend return to pre-pandemic levels, per the chart below. Liberty and Fenwick have outperformed the wider sector since 2019. Both are united by a focus on differentiating themselves by enhancing the store experience and investing in digital. Indeed, Fenwick CEO John Edgar suggested in October 2023 that digital was the “growth driver” for the business. Liberty, meanwhile, prides itself on being more than just a store, describing itself as a “hub of discovery”; an artistic movement. 

UK Department Store Share of Wallet

Of major UK department stores, John Lewis had the biggest share of wallet in 2023. This is perhaps a function of the fact that it has a larger store footprint versus its peers. Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser meanwhile have seen their share of wallet decline over the past five years. Debenhams and BHS have been two high profile casualties of shifting consumer preferences. Harrods, arguably the most recognizable British department store, has maintained its longevity by investing in innovation, focusing on attracting younger customers and introducing exclusive loyalty programs. The store’s partnerships with luxury brand Prada for example has yielded great success. The Prada Caffe, introduced in March 2023, was a big hit with Gen-Z shoppers, directly impacting Prada sales at Harrods. It is indisputable that for traditional store-based retail to thrive, there have to be reasons for consumers to come into store. Enhancing the shopping experience can create brand loyalty, something pure-play online offerings may not be able to do as effectively. 

Investors and corporates can see how these cross-currents play out in 2024 by utilizing transaction data from Consumer Edge.

Consumer Edge is the leading provider of alternative data for consumer spending behavior, and the only provider of global revenue signals. Our data offers insights into not only in the UK but in hundreds of industries, subindustries, tickers, and symbols across the globe. If you’d like to benefit from using Transact EUR or US or other products for industry data year-round to track trends and dynamics like these, reach out to insights@consumer-edge.com.

About the Authors

Michael Gunther is the VP Head of Insights for the CEIC. Explore more of his insights here and follow him on LinkedIn.

Ruhell Amin is a Senior Insights Analyst for the CEIC. Explore more of his insights here and follow him on LinkedIn.