Debenhams began as a draper store in 1778. William Clark founded the store in London, and made William Debenham his partner thirty-five years later, at which point the store became Clark & Debenham. Trade grew, and soon they began to sell more than drapery, bringing silks, millinery, lace, hosiery, haberdashery, and family mourning goods into their repertoire. When Clark retired in 1837, another store had been opened, and Debenham took over. Steadily, the store expanded throughout London, going through several partnership changes and, subsequently, name changes. Debenham, Pooley & Smith in 1837, Debenham, Son & Freebody in 1851, Debenham & Hewitt in 1876, and it was finally incorporated as Debenhams Limited in 1905.
Beginning in the 1900s, acquisition of other department stores served to spread the Debenhams name throughout the United Kingdom. All was going extremely well for the company, it seemed, until a protest over animal fur products in 1987 caused £340,000 in damage to the Harrow branch of the store via a fire bomb planted inside. It was an effective message, for sure, because the company ceased the selling of animal fur shortly thereafter.
In the following years, a few of Debenhams stores were closed due to failing sales, but a lot more were opened, and even more were refurbished. In 1993, they came out with their most-known product: Designers at Debenhams, a personal brand that launched and immediately increased revenue. After discovering the success of their brand, they’ve launched several new brands in an attempt to continue the reversal of the 1980s business decline. Currently, they have over 170 locations across the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark. They also do very successful business via their website, debenhams.com, their mobile app (which allows users to scan barcodes in store), and they now have an international website that caters to sixty-four other countries across the globe, int.debenhams.com.