Do you get the impression that when a group of people sitting around a table first thought of the concept behind Boohoo, they discussed possible names for the organisation, one of them said something stupid, got shot down and sulked and another person said:
”Oh, boohoo; just grow up - so we didn’t like your idea.”
”Tell you what,” said another round the table, “let’s call the idea “Boohoo”, for now and then change it to a proper name once we have thought of one.
They never did and the company is now stuck with a name reserved for cartoon crying. Whatever the truth of the origin of the name, it was announced this morning (Monday 25 January) that the Boohoo Group has bought Debenhams out of Liquidation for £55 million, in a deal that will allow the 242-year-old department store brand to 'survive', but its stores will shut down for good.
How does that even work? Boohoo are an Internet ‘fashion’ business and Debenhams are a department store based largely on selling other brands on a franchise and concessions basis. The deal has nothing to do with the remaining 118 stores up and down the UK, as the money Boohoo are forking out will only entitle them to take ownership of Debenhams’ ecommerce operations and products around the start of its next financial year in March. The real estate will stay empty and Debenhams’ staff will stay fired at the end of the closing down sale.
Geoff Rowley and his team at FRP have done a fine job in a prevailing wind, but it is hard to sell vomit in a bucket. Geoff got all positive and appropriate about the sale, muttering things like “saving a great brand” and “enabling everyone to confirm the business beyond the pandemic”, but they were only ever polishing an ever-festering turd.
Boohoo get to sell a few more brands and break into beauty, sports and homeware, Debenhams’ employees have to get used to looking for new jobs in a moribund retail sector and the rest of us will walk past boarded up stores in the middle of our high streets wondering if they will become mausoleums of yesteryear, or the breakthrough properties of the ‘new normal’.
Boohoo said: “The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion ecommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware,” with people around them rubbing their eyes and crying over a spilt past.