I recall as a child visiting the enormous Allders flagship department store in Croydon, South London. The entire basement was devoted to carpets, I and my siblings would climb mountainous rolls of carpets and crawl through narrow spaces, it was like some vast indoor playground.

In 2013 after operating for 150 years, Allders closed its doors for the last time and 1000 employees lost their jobs. I felt a strong sense of sadness at the demise of this iconic retail brand. I also felt some frustration, the brand could have survived. The same goes for department stores today, the threat and reality of significant change in consumer behaviour and competitive actions have been apparent long before Covid19 appeared. Department stores will close, but not all.

They will evolve and fight back and win with fewer and smaller stores, offers will be better tailored to consumer needs with more efficient use of data and loyalty program insights. E-commerce will be key to growth as stores morph into showrooms and the instore experience excites and engages the consumer.

The future department store may not be a playground like I experienced as a 10-year-old, but it will need to be a playground both in-store and online for their future target consumers.

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