Not Your Mother’s Department Store

Dec 01, 2003

By George Anderson

The man who brought naked shoppers and Bollywood to his British department store thinks American stores are suffering from a chronic case of sameness.

Peter Williams, chief executive officer, Selfridges told the New York Times, “Part of the problem with the U.S. department stores is that you can be inside them and you’re
not too sure which one you’re in.”

Mr. Williams says U.S. stores need to broaden their appeal to attract younger shoppers if they want to grow.

He said younger consumers in the U.S. might shop in a department store if they’re “with their mums, but would they go in there on their own? And what is actually in there for
them, you know, when they get there? And I think this is to my point about the fact that in the large-space stores, you’ve got the space to be able to appeal to a wider age range.”

Another problem with U.S. department stores, says Mr. Willliams, is they are department stores in name only.

“Take someone like Saks, ” he said. “It’s not really a department store anymore. I mean, it’s a large fashion store, really. It’s fashion and cosmetics. It doesn’t do food, doesn’t
do home – or, if it does, it’s a very tiny department.”

Moderator’s Comment: Is there merit in Peter Williams’ critique of American department stores?

Mr. Williams commented to the Times that his stores’ focus on younger consumers not only brings in those shoppers, it adds a vitality to the total store
Anderson – Moderator

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