Next creates 'department store' as it merges and expands Watford presence
Next is to open a department store in all but name as it transforms its existing sites in the Atria centre in Watford and also adds a Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie brand for which it holds the UK licence.
The company will bring together its fashion, beauty and home ranges in a single store for the first time as it merges two locations in the Hertfordshire mall. It's unknown yet whether it will replicate this model elsewhere.
It has a legacy store in the mall which will close as its fashion operations are relocated next door to the newer Next Home & Beauty store in the shopping centre’s extension.
Opening in April, the new store will cover almost 95,000 sq ft across three floors. And next door, there will be a 4,500 sq ft Victoria's Secret branch that will be accessed from the Next location as well as having its own entrance.
Clearly, the converted and extended space will feature many categories found in a traditional department store. The retailer has developed and expanded on its business model in recent years to become a major seller of third-party brands, added categories and become an operator of stores for other labels, both physical and digital.
The evolution comes as M&S has also been pivoting to sell more third-party brands and to offer more categories in its existing stores. Such changes make good commercial sense for both businesses. The number of physical department stores in the UK has dropped following the failure of several small chains, as well as the larger Debenhams closures and selective closures at chains such as John Lewis and House of Fraser.
A Next spokesperson said: “We are very excited to announce plans for our new and improved store at Atria Watford – a location where Next has already thrived for many years. The new unit will bring together the three elements of our offering in one place – fashion, home and beauty – for the first time, for our Watford shoppers to enjoy.”
Steve Gray, Head of European Retail Asset Management at Atria owner Global Mutual added: “Next is a hugely important and long-standing tenant at the centre – and so we are really pleased to have supported them as they reconfigure their offering with us. We know locals and visitors will be incredibly excited by the new store.”
For now though, those locals will also be faced with the vacated original Next space with Atria not having announced a replacement for the retailer. And it’s unclear what’s happening to the vacated John Lewis space too.
But Gray added that there are further deals in the pipeline so it looks like they might not be empty for long. Whether the mall is able to attract large tenants that can replace Next and John Lewis in one go is open to question though. It’s undeniable that the mall is appealing, but its current mix already has the key names that operate large stores, such as Flannels, M&S, Mango, JD Sports, Boots, Apple, H&M, River Island, Primark and Zara.
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