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Department stores in the United Kingdom (UK) - Statistics & Facts

Once one of the main attractions of the high street in the United Kingdom (UK), department stores have begun to encounter difficulties in recent years. In 2021, sales in UK department stores amounted to 33 billion British pounds, based on volume, compared to 35.4 billion British pounds in 2016. This downward trend represented a decrease of 0.1 percent on a year-on-year basis, while sales value (the amount spent) increased by just 1.8 percent.


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.
In 2020, a similar fate befell Debenhams. The chain lost about two-thirds of its operating profit from 2015 to 2018 and went into administration, first in 2019, then again in 2020. After the collapse of parent company, Arcadia, Debenhams was liquidated. Boohoo bought the brand and website, and now operates Debenhams exclusively online.

Declining footfall

It is fair to say that the demise of the department stores is part of the ongoing decline of British high streets. Retail traffic and footfall to retail centers such as high streets and shopping centers have for some time been suffering from diminishing visitor numbers, long before the coronavirus restrictions on mobility were introduced. Throughout 2019, with the exception of a slight improvement around Christmas time, high street footfall presented negative growth numbers. This trend only worsened in 2021. The same was true of shopping centers as well, where department stores are also located.

Luxury department stores

High-end department stores, however, are proving to be more resilient to the struggles that the high street and department store retail have been facing. Revenues of high-end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges did fall in 2020 due to the pandemic, but looking before this period, it can be seen that their revenues were steadily increasing, whilst chains such as House of Fraser and Debenhams were struggling. The net worth of Harrods proved especially resilient in 2021, considering the difficulties of 2020.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Department stores in the United Kingdom (UK)".


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