Wednesday 27 January 2021 10:00 am

Shakespeare: Boohoo buys Debenhams brand to broaden its customer base

Online fashion giant Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55 million, meaning its remaining stores will be forced to close.

Boohoo already purchased the Karen Millen and Coast brands in 2019, however this is the first time the e-tailer has stepped out of the fashion category, with Debenhams enabling entry to the lockdown-boosted beauty, homewares and sports sectors. 

Previous YouGov data shows that three in ten Brits bought fashion or beauty products in the first month of lockdown (29 per cent), one in nine purchased active wear/exercise equipment (11 per cent), and a further one in ten bought furniture and homeware (10 per cent).

Boohoo, which has a typically young and online clientele, had already begun to broaden its customer base with previous brand purchases, but the purchase of Debenhams’ brand shows the e-tailer is serious about widening its online shopping net. 

YouGov Profiles data shows that more than two thirds of consumers that tend to buy from Boohoo are aged between 18 and 34 – a third aged between 18 and 24 years old (34 per cent) and a further third aged between 25 and 34 (34 per cent).

By comparison, three quarters of Debenhams customers are aged over 35 – a quarter aged 35 to 44 (26 per cent), a fifth aged 45 to 54 (21 per cent) and three in ten over 55 (28 per cent).

While a third of those who would consider making future purchases from Boohoo in future are young (32 per cent are aged 18-24), nearly half of those who would do so at Debenhams are aged 55 and above (46 per cent), a figure which increases to 51 per cent for both Karen Millen and Coast.

By owning all of these brands, Boohoo will expand and cover a much larger and more diverse audience.

However, while these older-skewed brands have struggled over the years, they still have strong brand health, particularly with older customers. Among the over-50s age group, Debenhams has an average Index score (a measure of overall brand health calculated by taking the average of Impression, Quality, Value, Satisfaction, Recommend and Reputation) of 21.6 over the past six months, compared to Boohoo’s -3.9. Karen Millen scored 6.6 and Coast scored 6.8.

YouGov data shows that frequent Debenhams purchasers are most motivated to buy online by a larger selection or variety of products (68 per cent) and the lack of fuss from ordering at home (48 per cent). Boohoo plans to rebuild and relaunch Debenhams’ website by the summer to create the “UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware”.

If Boohoo can use Debenhams’ brand health and its wide variety of beauty and fashion partnerships to retain the former retailer’s more mature audience, Boohoo will take a huge step into the lead of the fashion ecommerce space.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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