The strain on the UK department store market has been highlighted by the high-profile struggles of leading chains. In summer 2018, the retailer House of Fraser announced plans to close a large proportion of its stores, before falling into administration and eventually being bought out by owner of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley. This came after a decline in the company’s gross profit of around two million pounds in 2017, as well as the retailer’s share of the market having fallen slightly between 2012 and 2017. During the same period, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams also experienced declines in their market shares of around six and 1.5 percent, respectively. Debenhams' operating profit in the UK has fallen by more than 25 million British pounds since 2015.
The declining market share of these three retailers has led other department store chains, namely John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges, to increase their market presence. The growth in John Lewis’ market share between 2012 and 2017 has meant that the company has overtaken Marks & Spencer as the UK’s leading department store retailer, with a market share of 25 percent, compared to Mark & Spencer’s 23.3 percent. John Lewis has 49 stores across the country and made a revenue from sales of approximately 3.9 billion British pounds in the 2018 financial year, over 100 million pounds more than in the previous year.
As is true across the entire retail industry, department store retailers have seen an increasing number of their products sold online, with the internet sales index reaching 200.4 in December 2017 according to the baseline year 2015. Accounts by leading chains have also shown that online retailing is a key area for growth. In 2016, Debenhams reported that almost a quarter of its retail sales were made online. Similarly, online sales at M&S.com have almost doubled since the 2011/12 financial year and growth in John Lewis’ online performance was as high as 9.9 percent in 2018.