Sep 25, 2017
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Debenhams extends experience and beauty offer with Blow stake

Sep 25, 2017

Debenhams, like most major retailers these days, is trying to focus on the areas that are growing strongly and beauty, as well as experience-based retail and its latest investment sums up both of these strategy strands.

Blow Ltd

It has taken a stake in Blow Ltd, the beauty app that sends hairstylists or make-up artists and nail technicians to a customer’s home (or office). The firm has been growing fast and currently employs 350 beauticians.

Debenhams will open Blow Bars in its Oxford Street flagship store as well as its Bullring Birmingham store and in Manchester during this season.

Debenhams only has a minority stake, for which it has paid £7.5 million, but it’s significant because the purchase is the first major move by the department store giant’s still-relatively-new CEO Sergio Bucher following the announcement of the firm’s new strategy plans.

The 164-store chain saw profits falling more than 6% when it reported its latest set of results this spring and so a move into major growth areas is clearly needed.

Beauty is a £4 billion sector in the UK and the Blow buy means the retailer can open Blow ‘bars’ in its stores. That will also mean a much wider exposure for the Blow brand itself, which it can leverage to grow its at-home offer further.

Debenhams said the stake purchase would give it “a disruptive proposition in the large but fragmented beauty services market via a tech-enabled premium service provider”.

Bucher added: “The step is a strategic move which ties into multiple facets of our Debenhams Redesigned strategy. This will allow us to scale up our beauty services offer rapidly, and bring brands closer to customers both in-store and in their own homes. Through partnering with Blow Ltd, Debenhams can adopt an entrepreneurial approach to a growing market, acquiring external expertise with flexibility and low overhead commitments.”  

Blow was founded by former Elle UK and Grazia Editor-in-Chief Fiona McIntosh and venture capitalist Dharmash Mistry and this spring brought ex-Just Eat Divisional Director Brian Hickey on board as CEO to drive its expansion plans.

It also raised £3.5 million in funding from Unilever’s venture capital operation as it expanded in the UK and prepared to grow abroad.

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