A department store is a retail establishment which specializes in satisfying a wide range of the consumer's personal and residential durable goods product needs; and at the same time offering the consumer a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in all product categories. Department stores usually sell products including apparel, furniture, home appliances, electronics, and additionally select other lines of products such as paint, hardware, toiletries, cosmetics, photographic equipment, jewellery, toys, and sporting goods. Certain department stores are further classified as discount stores. Discount department stores commonly have central customer checkout areas, generally in the front area of the store. Department stores are usually part of a retail chain of many stores situated around a country or several countries.
John Lewis Newcastle (formerly Bainbridge) in Newcastle upon Tyne, is the world’s oldest Department Store. It is still known to many of its customers as Bainbridge, despite the name change to 'John Lewis'. The Newcastle institution dates back to 1838 when Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge, aged 21, went into partnership with William Alder Dunn and opened a draper’s and fashion in Market Street, Newcastle. In terms of retailing history, one of the most significant facts about the Newcastle Bainbridge shop, is that as early as 1849 weekly takings were recorded by department, making it the earliest of all department stores. This ledger survives and is kept in the John Lewis archives. John Lewis bought the Bainbridge store in 1952.
John Lewis Newcastle retained its original name of Bainbridge until 2002, when the store was rebranded as John Lewis Newcastle.
Also, Kendals in Manchester can lay claim to being one of the oldest department stores in the UK. Beginning as a small shop owned by S. and J. Watts in 1796, its sold a variety of goods. Kendal Milne and Faulkner purchased the business in 1835. Expanding the space, rather than use it as a typical warehouse simply to showcase textiles, it became a vast bazaar. Serving Manchester's upmarket clientele for over 200 years, it was recently purchased by the House of Fraser - although most Mancunians still refer to it as Kendals.
In Edinburgh, Jenners saw a similar development. It starting as a drapery store in 1838, which by 1890 had grown into Scotland's largest retail store by gobbling up all the small stores in the neighbourhood. In 1895, after a devastating fire, a new ultra-modern building opened, with lavish electrical lighting, hydraulic lifts and air conditioning. Four hours after the grand opening, 25,000 people had already visited the store.
In the UK the term "department store" still refers to the traditional, classic department store, which has a wide range of independent departments with their own staff and their own tills. Large discount stores with the tills located by the entrance are not regarded as department stores in the UK, although the owners may call them that. Such stores as Marks & Spencer, Britain's largest clothes retailer would therefore not be included in the British definition of a department store.
France's major upscale department stores are Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps, which both have flagship stores on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and branches around the country. The oldest department store in France (and in the world) is Le Bon Marché in Paris, owned by the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. La Samaritaine, another upscale department store also owned by LVMH, closed in 2005. Mid-range department stores chains also exist in France such as the BHV (Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville), part of the same group as Galeries Lafayette.
Originally the Republic of Ireland had two department stores, Clerys and Arnotts, the latter considered to be one of the largest stores in Ireland. However, several large retailers now own chains of department stores, such as:
The most upmarket chain is undoubtedly Brown Thomas, founded as a haberdasher's in 1849 on Dublin's Grafton Street. The company (which belongs to the same group as the UK's Selfridges or Canada's Holt Renfrew) bought its long time competitor across the street, Switzers, in 1995. BT then moved to the larger site. It also acquired and re-branded the former Switzer stores in Cork (formerly Cash's), Limerick (formerly Todd's) and Galway (formerly Moon's).
There are also many self-owned department stores around the country, especially in rural towns.
The British department store, Debenhams, purchased the Roches Stores chain in 2006, closed two stores and rebranded the others. The opening of Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin's suburbs saw the arrival of two more British stores, House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols.