Debenhams plc (LSE: DEB) is a British retailer operating under a department store format in the UK, Ireland and Denmark, and franchise stores in other countries. The Company was founded in the eighteenth century as a single store in London and has now grown to around 160 shops. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The business was formed in 1778 by Messrs Flint and Clark who began trading at 44 Wigmore Street in London as a drapers' store under the name Flint & Clark. In 1813 William Debenham was made a partner so the name was changed to Clark and Debenham. In 1818 the Company opened a second store in Cheltenham and in 1851 Clement Freebody became a partner so the name was changed again, this time to Debenham & Freebody. The business was incorporated as Debenhams Limited in 1905.
The modern Debenhams group grew from the acquisition of department stores in towns and cities throughout the UK, under the leadership of its Chairman, Ernest Debenham. The first of these purchases, Marshall & Snelgrove at Oxford Street in London, was acquired in 1919. Later purchases included Harvey Nichols in London's Knightsbridge in 1920. Most stores acquired retained their former identities until a unified corporate image was rolled out across the stores. The Company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1928.