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Kendals: Manchester’s favourite art deco department store plans major makeover

House of Fraser on Deansgate has had many facelifts over the years and many name changes. Having opened as Watts’ in 1832, it subsequently became Kendal Milne, Kendals, Milne & Co, Milne & Faulkner and even Harrods.

The current art deco building was designed by Louis David Blanc and J.S. Beaumont and completed in 1939, and is Manchester’s second largest department store after Debenhams.

Taken over by House of Fraser in 1959, it wasn’t until a major refurbishment back in 2005 that the brand finally took this name. Now, after a rise in annual profits and a change in the way people shop, it’s having another revamp.

Owners Sanpower have set out a strategy to introduce more restaurants and bars in the stores to entice shoppers.

The move to introduce more services and restaurants follows a general shift in consumer spending away from purchases to experiences, with more people opting for drinks and meals out rather than new clothes.

Sanpower chairman Frank Slevin said that its new champagne bar in Belfast had been a success and the retailer could replicate it in some stores.

“It is important that House of Fraser leads in providing space and experience that attracts our customers to come and spend time in our stores to make shopping a lifestyle led experience.”

The store is also planning to revamp some of its brands which were failing to gain traction with shoppers.  Last month, it announced it would be scrapping its Therapy, Linea Weekend, Dickens & Jones, Episode and Gray & Willow brands in order to focus on its more popular ones like Biba.

Finance chief Colin Elliot admitting that some of its brands had become “labels that didn’t mean anything”.

Sales of clothes may have dropped, but beauty sales saw a 4.1 percent rise with an increase in social media driving younger shoppers to spend more on grooming products than clothes. And with online sales now representing around 21 percent of total sales, House of Fraser said it believed there was also room to double their profits there.

Mr Slevin said that the UK would see a £45 million investment in the business, roughly the same as last year, with a further £25 million spent on improving its website for mobile and tablet shoppers. With five shops refurbished last year, Manchester is next in line.

The revamped Manchester store will incorporate all sales data and use current spending trends in its design. Let’s hope the Kendal, Milne & Co name is still clearly visible above the entrances as to most Mancunians it will always be Kendals.

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