The department store sector has grown by 18% between 2009 and 2014 to reach £15.1 billion. The sector has seen slower growth of 2.2% in 2014 due to falling sales from M&S and a weak performance by Debenhams.

John Lewis stands out as one of the winners in the sector and also within the UK retail sector. It has been gaining market share and is closing in on M&S to become the leading department store as the retailer reaps the rewards of the success of its multichannel operations.

High-end department stores have continued to outpace their mid-market equivalents and the gap in the growth rate between the two has become even more accentuated in the last year.

Department store definition

There are no hard and fast rules. But, we would expect stores to typically trade from a minimum of 1,000 sq m and stock at least half a dozen different broad product categories, with one category unlikely to account for more than two thirds of turnover, and usually significantly less than this.

As a minimum, all department stores covered in this report sell adults’ and children’s apparel, lingerie, fashion accessories, footwear, beauty products and some homewares. Larger full-line stores have a much wider product assortment.

Some department stores retained their food halls through the 1990s and others have been re-introducing them. The food offer is typically upscale and geared towards fine foods and delicatessen, and therefore differentiated from the everyday supermarket.

The offer usually covers a mix of concessions and own-bought ranges, increasingly with a private label element within the own-bought assortment. M&S differs in that virtually its entire range is own-brand/private label.

Sector benchmarks

Department stores

Using information from Mintel’s Retail Interactive Database, we have estimated sector sales from the statutory revenues (see accounting policy below) of all identified companies including M&S non-food sales. We believe that these represent the vast majority of the whole genre. Our sector estimates and forecasts are stated on a VAT-inclusive basis to comply with all other Mintel UK reports, but all other retail sales are shown exclusive of VAT in this report unless otherwise stated.

M&S is really a hybrid department/variety store, but its scale, market positioning and the relative importance of its full assortment stores are such that it needs to be included in this report. However, we don’t include M&S’ food sales. This is because food accounts for such a small part of the mix for the rest of the sector and M&S’ food sales would misrepresent the relative importance of the more traditional department stores.

Mixed goods retailers

National Statistics has no official department store category as such. But in case clients want to compare market shares of UK department stores with their peers in other countries, we have also provided these based on ‘non-food dominant non-specialised’ category.

We more commonly refer to this sector as ‘mixed goods’ retailing. It is something of a catch-all sector covering not only large-space department stores, but variety stores, non-food discount stores and a whole host of other retailers that do not specialise in any one particular non-food product category.

In the UK this includes sizeable retail businesses like Boots (primarily a health and beauty specialist but with other product ranges too), Wilkinson (variety stores pitched at the value end of the mass market) and Mothercare (mother and baby goods, toys etc). It also covers very many smaller operators. Other than the fact that they carry a mixed goods offer, department stores have very little in common with these formats in terms of market positioning, brand assortment, store ambience, customer service etc.

There are three retailers that we include in our department store sector size that are not classified as mixed goods retailers by the National Statistics Office. These are M&S, Debenhams and Harvey Nichols, all of which are categorised as clothing specialists.

Statutory revenues versus GTV

There are two means of accounting for sales through department stores:

  • Statutory revenue, which are sales made by the department stores themselves, plus any payments made by third-party concessionaires to them.

  • Gross transactional value (GTV), which is the total value of sales made in the department stores, and includes the total sales values of third-party concessionaires.

Financial definitions

  • All retailers’ sales figures are quoted excluding VAT, unless specifically stated otherwise.

  • In our UK report, retail sales data includes VAT.

  • Consumer spending data is quoted including VAT, unless specifically stated otherwise.

  • Operating profit is trading profit after normal operating costs and depreciation, but before interest, goodwill amortisation and exceptional items.

  • Pre-tax profit is calculated after all costs, including exceptionals, interest and non-cash charges such as amortisation, but before tax.

  • Both market shares and the sector size and forecast are calculated using statutory revenues.

Note that there can be a number of reasons why tables do not sum exactly:

  • Rounding errors.

  • Currency conversions if original data for different subsidiaries was in different currencies (companies often provide information in local currencies).

  • VAT (sales tax) – if original data was provided gross (including sales tax), we have extracted VAT at the relevant rates for countries concerned and at the estimated appropriate rates depending on product categories sold.

  • Information on all subsidiaries is not always available. As a result in some cases we have an entry for the parent company, and subsidiary information on only one part of the business.

Sales per store, sales per sq m

  • Sales per sq m is the sales generated during the year divided by the average area traded from during that year.

  • Sales per store is calculated using the average number of trading outlets during the year.

Market shares

We have calculated two market share series for the UK department store report and in both cases statutory revenues are used.

Department stores can be related to National Statistics mixed goods retailers’ sales. The problem with this option is that it excludes some important players (eg M&S, Debenhams and Harvey Nichols), and includes many other retail formats that are not department stores. This series should be viewed in terms of relative performance rather than the actual market shares. However, we have included it to be consistent with other countries covered in earlier report series of this title.

Department stores can be related to Mintel’s estimated sales for the department store sector (including M&S, Debenhams and Harvey Nichols). This method slightly overstates the sector size insofar as less than a third of M&S’ mainstream stores (ie excluding Simply Foods convenience stores) are full assortment, departmental-style outlets. However, they account for considerably more than a third of the chain’s turnover, possibly as much as two thirds or more.


BRC British Retail Consortium
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GM General Merchandise
GTV Gross Transactional Value
M&S Marks & Spence
Na Not available
ONS Office for National Statistics
PDI Personal Disposable Income
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