Category Archives: Debenhams

“Buying things for a hen do can be expensive!” says department store

Extravagant hen dos now cost guests so much they rival the amount spent on attending the actual wedding!

There was a time when a hen do consisted of a good old knees up down the local pub, maybe withe a few naughty, novelty straws thrown in and an L plate to be worn by the bride-to-be.

But now the average cost of attending a hen do has spiralled to hundreds of pounds per guest and fancy parties can involve anything from a mini stay-cation or even a full-blown holiday, leaving attendees seriously out of pocket.

The average cost of attending a hen do abroad is almost £700 and for those held at home in Britain just short of £200 per person – yet going to the big day itself can cost them a fraction of the price, says a new survey.

Source: Daily Mail, 5th June 2014


The humble hen do – or the ‘bachelorette party’, for those of an American persuasion – has escalated over the last few years, as women keep up with their increasingly-lavish male equivalents.

Gone are the days of a simple night out on the tiles, now it’s commonplace to see large parties of women staggering around a weekend city break adorned with inflatable peni, pink tutus and black T shirts emblazoned with lurid pink innuendous slogans. A ‘slag do’, if you will.

And, despite the average goings-on during a hen do or stag do being remarkably cheap, the actual cost of attendance is anything but – according to this ‘research’, of course.

That the ‘research’ was commissioned by a department store is neither here nor there – as Debenhams’ spokesperson clarifies:

A personal stylist at Debenhams, who commissioned the research said: ‘We have seen a steady increase in enquiries from customers wanting help purchasing new outfits for hen parties, weekends and trips abroad.

‘Often the group of invited women may not all have seen each other for a few years and it is natural that they want to look their best.

‘Planning and shopping ahead is the key to getting the most for your money.’

No incentive from Debenhams to come up with a story like this at all, then. Next we’ll be hearing that Debenhams are launching their own ‘Kinky Kaytee’ or ‘Knickerless Naomi’ T Shirt range…

“Fashion blunders pas can be embarrassing!” says clothes retailer

“Fashion blunders pas can be embarrassing!” says clothes retailer

Which company decided to cash in on this particular flash of the royal derriere?

Finding toilet roll stuck to a shoe came second in cringeworthy moments after being picked by a fifth of 2,000 shoppers polled by department store Debenhams.

Kate Thomas of Debenhams said: “The best thing to do is laugh it off and style it out like the Princess.”

“Lots of companies use Christmas as an excuse for publicity!” says everyone, in the Daily Star

Christmas is a great excuse to get coverage for your company – a point which was unintentionally made astoundingly clear in the Daily Star last week, in a story with perhaps the most PR-per-inch of any I’ve ever seen.

“Men: you should be clean shaven!” says retailer selling shaving products

“There’s an ideal way to make pancakes!” says frying pan retailer

You know those boffins? You know the ones, those zany, crazy nerdo-types who have this bafflingly-square obsession with boiling down the world into mathematical formulae and scientific squiggles? Those ones that absolutely definitely exist and aren’t just a marketing construct from a PR industry hell-bent on conferring a forced legitimacy onto the worthless and vacuous façades they manage to hide their adverts behind?

You know those ones? Them? Well, they struck again on Pancake Tuesday:

Flipping clever! Formula for the perfect pancake revealed by maths boffins (but we’ll still end up with ours stuck to the ceiling)

If you are one of the thousands of Britons planning to flip a pancake or two on Shrove Day tomorrow then your work just got made a whole lot easier.. or harder, depending on your grasp of science.

The formula for the perfect pancake mix has been revealed as 100 – [10L – 7F + C(k – C) + T(m – T)]/(S – E), and was developed by mathematicians at the University of Wolverhampton.

Source: Daily Mail, 11 February 2013


Well, University of Wolverhampton, I’m glad you decided to spontaneously study what it would take to come up with the perfect pancake, and I’m glad the answer was such a simple and common-sensival – yet scientific-looking – formula. 

Retailer Debenhams unveiled the mathematical formula for the perfect pancake – claiming in the process to be able to eliminate sub-standard crepes across kitchens forever.

…or not. In fact, this was a simple press release from a department store, timed to make headlines around pancake day.

Even more revealing is the fact that this isn’t even a new piece of formulaic nonsense, with both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail running the exact same formula back on Shrove Tuesday 2009:

Formula for perfect pancake unveiled by scientists

Dr Ruth Fairclough, a mathematics professor, has cooked up a complicated formula for the perfect pancake – just in time for Shrove Tuesday.

Dr Fairclough, a lecturer of mathematics and statistics at Wolverhampton University, has plotted the pancake’s creation down to the last detail.

She says the frying pan’s temperature is one of the most important parts, together with the preparation of the tasty batter.

However, the secret recipe in full is: 100 – [10L – 7F + C(k – C) + T(m – T)]/(S – E) with the closer you get to a 100 – the better the pancake.

Source: Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2009


At the time, this important piece of cutting-edge research was released on behalf of supermarket chain ASDA:

Meanwhile Asda has seen a 13 fold increase in the number Non Stick Aluminium Frying Pan – perfect for Pancake Day.

While the formula may be relatively legitimate, it’s also almost certainly woefully simplistic and derived not so much on lengthy research, but more likely derived from their being a space in the press release that ASDA pimped around universities looking for someone willing to insert some scientific-looking numbers and letters. 

So, four years later, why would Debenham’s pretend they’d just found a formula for the perfect pancake?

Lizzie Singleton (Spokesperson for Debenham’s): ‘Coupled with the right frying pan, following this formula will result in perfect pancakes all round!’

‘Simplifying the science behind this formula, our customers can have perfect pancakes tonight.

‘The golden rules seem to be to have a good pan at 377 degrees, have zero lumps in the mixture, and leave the batter to stand for 30 minutes before cooking, making sure the pancakes are eaten straight away – that seems simple enough.

Or to put it another way, as taken from the press release:

The Jamie Oliver Tefal pancake pan is available exclusively at Debenhams in all stores nationwide and online at priced at £30.

Do you like pancakes? Then Debenham’s say they can sell you the pan to make the perfect pancake! It’s enough to make you flip…

Valentine’s Day retailers say it with flawed surveys

It’s February 14th, and in accordance with tradition the nation will be heaving tonight with the sounds of relationships the country over being consumated. Specifically, the relationships between PR agencies and their satisfied clients, as retailers and businesses cash in on the Valentine’s Day media free-for-all.

While the exploitation of the most commercial of the Hallmark Holidays is nothing new, 2013 certainly hasn’t let the side down – the first rains of the Valentine’s PR monsoon falling as early as January, with pioneering research into the evolution of the pet name (Daily Mail, January 28th) published in the Daily Mail:

Move over darling! Old-fashioned favourite beaten into third place as babe and baby become Britain’s top terms of endearment

The research found that terms of affection such as ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ have been superseded by more modern and streamline pet-names like ‘baby’ and ‘love’ (both of which were actually only invented in the year 2000 as part of Britain’s preparations for the Millennium Bug). These findings have far-reaching implications, according to the researchers – who coincidentally are a sex toy retailer named after two common pet names:

Lovehoney co-founder Neal Slateford said: ‘The ways pet names have changed over the years show we are getting even more affectionate towards each other and a little less formal.

‘As a nation, we are learning to lighten up when it comes to love and sex. That has to be a good thing.’

If I were an online sex toy retailer, I’m sure I’d find ample reason to agree. Still, that the survey produced media-friendly results of potential benefit to the company carrying out the research should in no way undermine the credibility of this online, self-reported and entirely-subjective poll, even as further findings from this PR exercise are explained:

And while the British might have a reputation for being unromantic, the poll found that the opposite is true, with 72 per cent saying that Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to show a partner how much they appreciate them.

If anybody is still unsure how to show a partner how much they’re appreciated, a Mr Slateford at has a number of expensive suggestions for you. Or perhaps you could always turn to vibrator vendors ‘Desire and Pleasure’, whose own online self-promotional pseudo-research was featured in The Sun (The Sun, February 7th):

CASH-strapped Brits are shunning expensive romantic nights out this Valentine’s Day — and stocking up on SEX TOYS instead, a survey claims.

The unromantic reputation of Britons was similarly noted by British tourist board ‘Visit Britain’, who pointed out (Daily Mail, February 10th):

Britain ‘too stuffy’ to host romantic visit as Italy and France is preferred by tourists

While we may be too stuffy to be romantic, we’re not too stupid to recognise reverse psychology. The lack of romance in modern-day Britain is clearly an area fraught with controversy, with a study published by Interflora insisting that Britons are a nation of romantics who fall in love at first sight (Daily Mail, February 6th), with one in five Brits positive the best way to declare new-found love is with a nice bunch of flowers. If only they could find a suitable florist.

While there’s clearly some rigorous academic dispute over the romance levels of the average Brit, at least one thing is certain – somewhere in Britain can be arbitrarily declared as more romantic than everywhere else. After all, in any closed set with random variance, there has to be an upper and lower limit – and what better way to highlight normal statistical distribution than by letting people know you sell perfume (Daily Mail, February 1st)?

When it comes to Valentine’s gifts, we’ve an abundance of research – each piece diligently compiled by online survey companies using questions written very carefully by PR companies on behalf of businesses aiming to use Valentine’s Day to secure column inches. Voucher website Groupon, for example, revealed flowers and chocolates just don’t cut it (The Sun, February 12th), and instead a gifts need to be memorable – rather like one of the experiences you can buy inexpensively on voucher websites like Groupon. And heaven help you if you get last-minute flowers from a petrol station – voucher website have research proving such an idea is a no-no (Daily Mail, February 11th).

On the other hand, as retailer Debenham’s helpfully researched, it’d be a good idea to buy the lady in your life some ‘posh knickers’ (Daily Mail, February 6th). Or perhaps you should take part in the British Heart Foundation’s charity initiative to write your partner a love note – after all, the BHF’s own research proves women prefer a simple, thoughtful gesture to an expensive gift anyway (Daily Mail, February 12th). But remember to buy your mistress something nice, too (Daily Mail, February 12th) – an extramarital dating website has research which says this is wise.

For those in long-term relationships, Valentine’s Day isn’t necessarily all department-store knickers and online vouchers – there are innumerable pitfalls into which the unsuspecting lover could fall. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of PR-led research with commercially-valuable conclusions to guide an impressionable couple – with advice from MSN to avoid relationship-killing public display of affection (Daily Mail, February 12th) and data produced by internet security experts McAfee (Daily Mail, February 5th) proving that not only are your exes cyber-stalking you, but that those explicit photos on your smartphone are vulnerable to being hacked unless you can find an expert willing to sell you internet security. Even married couples aren’t safe from the relationship curse, with research proving that excitement, romance, sex and affection are dead in the water after three and a half years of marriage (The Telegraph, February 9th) – that the data was gathered by Co-op Foods probably has nothing at all to do with their Valentine’s Meal Deal and associated ad campaign.

Of course, if all else fails, you could always opt for the free Valentine’s Day Divorce (Daily Mail, February 12th). After all, there’s only 365 days left until Valentine’s Day – and there’s a hell of a lot of spurious, commercially-driven and scientifically-worthless online surveys to fill in before then.

Originally published in The Guardian, 14 February 2013

“People buy lots of sportswear!” says department store selling sportswear

As we’ve seen extensively, January was a month of keep fit – with gym firms and health foods cashing in on the New Year’s Resolution pay-dirt. In fact, it was hard to move in the media without anyone with even a peripheral link to keeping spouting off about just how popular exercise has become. Take the Daily Star, for instance:


SPORTSWEAR sales have soared this month as people get fit after piling on the Christmas pounds.

Tracksuit bottoms, leggings and tops have been selling fast, and some shops have been forced to order extra supplies.

Source: Daily Star, 15 January 2013


It seems that the legions of people heading to the gym, doubtlessly inspired by the near-constant stream of PR telling them to do so, caused a major surge in the sales of sportswear in shops all across the land. How encouraging!

This couldn’t actually be a cynical move by a company with a vested interest in making us think sportswear was suddenly popular, could there? Let’s ask a spokesperson!

Debenhams said last Saturday was the biggest day of the year for flogging sportswear.

Sales of Pineapple sports leggings have risen by more than 300%, while the number of sweat tops sold has risen by 275%.

Debenhams spokesman Michelle Dowdall said the store had noticed increased sales across the whole range of sportswear including men’s, women’s and even children’s items.

She added: “By the time the new year rings in, shoppers are sick of their muffin tops and too-tight jeans, and want to get fit and lose the bulge.

This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with Debenhams wanting to sell more sportswear, of course… although the story was sourced from their PR department


“Flannel bed linen is all the rage!” says department store selling flannel bed linen

Do you ever find it hard to keep on top of the latest trends and fads in the fast-moving word of, erm, bed linen? No, I don’t suppose you do – nobody does. That said, just in case, the Daily Mail is on hand to help you through your duvet dilemmas:

Flannel sheets back in demand after more than half a century as families struggle with soaring heating bills

Traditional flannel bed sheets which kept millions of people on the home front warm during the Second World War are back in fashion as heating bills soar. 

Demand for bed linen made from the cosy, naturally warm fabric is rising rapidly because gas and electricity bills are now so expensive.

Sales figures show flannel sheets are now out-selling many silk varieties, according to department store Debenhams.

Source: Daily Mail, 17 January 2013


PR connaisseurs  will note the mention of Debenhams there, classically in the fourth paragraph, as we’d come to expect. This is, then, merely a press release from Debenhams, designed to encourage people to buy said flannel sheets. In fact, here’s the press release it was based on:


In fact, Daily Mail Reporter of the Daily Mail took 78% of the story verbatim from this press release, adding only stylistic tweaks and edits:


All in all, pretty shoddy journalism – perhaps the reporter has had one too many lie-ins in his cosy new flannel sheets.

*Note: Updated 30 July, 2013

“Teachers get expensive thank-you presents these days!” says department store selling thank-you presents

Despite this cash-strapped age, parents looking to convince their child’s teacher into giving better grades are going to ludicrous lengths to impress, says unlikely-sounding news articles in the Express and the Daily Mail: 


Parents are giving teachers increasingly lavishing gifts

AN apple on the desk will no longer get you in a teacher’s good books, according to a survey of parents.

Mums and dads are splashing out on expensive and elaborate gifts to win favour for their children.

Some presents are worth hundreds of pounds – including laptops, jewellery and even free holidays.

Source: Daily Express, 12 December 2012


Modern ways of sucking up: Teeth whitening, trips to holiday homes and laptops among gifts being given to teachers to curry favour
– But teachers still appreciate the cheaper gifts like note cards and pot plants

While many will be tightening their belts this Christmas, there is one group who can still expect to be spoilt.

And no, it’s not the children.

Instead, cxpensive Christmas presents will be lavished on schoolteachers as parents splash out in a bid to curry favour in the classroom.

Despite a cash-strapped festive season, parents are still prepared to blow the budget when it comes to gifts for their children’s teachers.

Source: Daily Mail, 11 December 2012


That parents spend such vast amounts on their child’s teacher is a shocking and weird notion, I’m sure you’ll agree – if it’s true. What can be said for certain, is that the article featured in both the Express and the Mail comes from a single source, with a clear vested interest in stressing that a good parent who really cares about their child will buy gifts for their child’s teachers:

Debenhams carried out their survey after their personal shoppers reported being approached by customers to help choose suitable gifts for teachers.

However … all that parental effort could well be wasted as some of the top ten Christmas presents teachers claim to appreciate the most, are the least expensive; such as chocolates, a bottle of alcohol, note cards or a pot plant.

Debenhams spokeswoman, Elena Antoniou, said: ‘While it is a lovely thought to buy a gift, we would stress that there are many low-cost options in our stores that would make delightful presents, without the need for any parents to feel they have to go over budget.’

In fact, both the articles in the Express and Daily Mail are derived from the same extensive press release put out by Debenhams, which itself was complete with quotes from teachers, parents and the Good School Guide, providing all the possible depth any news report could ever want, giving the journalist the least amount of work to do themselves:


It’s fair to say it worked, too – with the Daily Mail reproducing an impressive 91% of the press release in their article. It’s not clear how much of the article in the Express was written by Nathan Rao, however, but it’s possible he contributed barely a word to it.


“Women want a shapelier figure!” says retailer selling shaping underwear

Sometimes, the workings of PR can be subtle and hard to track. Other times, the message is as clear and blatant as can be – take, for example, this from the Daily Mail:

All I want for Christmas is a waist! Hourglass figure like Kelly Brook and Holly Willoughby tops women’s most wanted list

Skinny straight up and down figures might dominate the catwalk and the red carpet, but for British women, the shape of choice is a curvy hour-glass.

Almost three quarters of women surveyed said that a figure with a small waist balanced by larger breasts and hips was the ideal.

And rather than wanting to emulate the stick thin likes of Kate Moss, most women would prefer to have the figures of curvier celebrities such as Kelly Brook, Holly Willoughby, Beyonce and Kate Winslet.

Source: Daily Mail, 17 December 2012


Queue lots of photographs of celebrities who are in the media at the moment, who have hourglass figures. That these celebrities almost certainly either naturally have such a shape, or spend a large part of their lives in training and working out in order to maintain such a shape, is beside the point – these are now the aspirational figures we’re fed, to make all women feel bad if they don’t measure up.

But wait, for the (90%) of women in the population who don’t have the figure that professional model Kelly Brook has, there’s a saviour and a solution, in the form of some underwear from Debenhams (who seeded the story)!

Sharon Webb head of lingerie buying and design at Debenhams commented: ‘Even in the fifties most women, including film stars, had foundation garment help in creating their tiny waists.

‘Then they were called girdles and corsets and were a lot more uncomfortable than the modern versions, but thanks to innovative modern materials it is now a lot easier to get that coveted hourglass shape and nipped-in waist than it was in our grandmothers day.

‘It also helps that people are so much more open about using shapewear now. Some of our customers have admitted to being embarrassed about needing a little smoothing help in certain areas but once they realise so many celebrities have all talked openly about wearing shapewear they much more confident about buying it themselves.’

Sell people a problem, then sell people the solution to it: it’s PR in a nutshell.