Five years ago I blogged a map of London's department stores.
On the day after Debenhams closed its doors for good, I thought it was time for an update.
Pink boxes denote areas where department stores have closed since 2016.
Most of the department stores that have disappeared since 2016 are Debenhams, once a mainstay of our town centres but now vanished in a puff of economic smoke. The capital's 15 former Debenhams were in Harrow, Uxbridge, Romford, Westfield, Oxford Street, Ilford, Hounslow, Wandsworth, Battersea, Wimbledon, Eltham, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley and Orpington. Of these areas only Hounslow and Battersea are now departmentstore-less, without even a Marks & Spencer to their name. Only the Debenhams in Hounslow, Ilford, Sutton, Uxbridge, Harrow, Bromley and Romford continued to trade until May 2021.
Turning to the other national chains, House of Fraser's London total has dropped to four since 2016 with the closure of stores in Richmond and the City. We also already know that their Victoria branch (formerly Army & Navy) will be closing next summer as part of an office redevelopment, which'll leave Oxford Street, Westfield and Croydon as the sole HoF outposts. Fenwick's three stores remain open, including one operating as Bentalls in Kingston. John Lewis still has seven stores (including Peter Jones in Chelsea), having opened in Westfield White City in 2018 but closed its Purley Way outlet last summer. As for Marks & Spencer they've only shuttered their stores on Holloway Road and in Covent Garden, but a number of smaller stores have lost their clothing sections and been repurposed for food sales only.
Many of the department stores in the centre of town are world famous, notably Harrods in Knightsbridge and Selfridges' flagship store on Oxford Street. Liberty in Soho is another iconic one-off, while Harvey Nicks and Fortnum & Mason lean more towards the rich and foreign tourists. It'd be seismic if any of these chose to close their doors.
Meanwhile out in the suburbs several smaller department stores somehow survive. Many of these owe their existence to Morleys of Brixton who first branched out in Tooting and then bought up several other suburban stores. These include Elys on nearby Wimbledon High Street, Pearsons of Enfield, Selby's on the Holloway Road and Roomes in Upminster. The only surviving independent on my map is John Sanders on Ruislip High Street, following the sad demise of Blands in Wembley (2017), the delightfully named Bodgers of Ilford (2018) and Tudor Williams in New Malden (2019).
Outside central London the only places to retain three department stores are Brent Cross, White City and Kingston, and the only places to retain two are Enfield, Stratford, Brixton, Croydon and Bexleyheath. Bexleyheath is a proper success story because it's gained a department store since 2016, courtesy of a branch of Morleys opening in the former BHS, so hurrah for that. Meanwhile Ilford, Battersea and Croydon have each lost two department stores since 2016.
Of the 82 department stores on my map five years ago 30% have disappeared, which is fairly depressing. But if you discount M&S and only look at 'proper' department stores the fall is 45%, which looks considerably worse. It's mostly Debenhams' fault, the rest have held up fairly well, but the map could well be a lot emptier by 2026. The pull of wandering round a one-stop shop for drapery, fashion and electrical goods is waning thanks to online shopping and the pandemic, but there is still a joy in buying something special and taking it home to use straight away. Use 'em or lose 'em.
n.b. a 2016 post listing London's closed department stores is here.