Debenhams may have been far from its heyday for some time, but the closure of its large department stores will still hit towns, cities and shopping malls around the country. By Saturday night, more than 160 Debenhams stores will have closed in the past two years, adding to a smaller number of closures by rivals House of Fraser and John Lewis and the collapse of the 22-strong Beales chain.
Shoppers and staff told the Guardian how they thought the closures would hit their towns, what went wrong and who was to blame.
A shopper in Lincoln: “Debenhams leaves a huge hole in the town centre as so many other stores have also gone. Everywhere looks empty and deserted and the town has no vibrancy any more.”
Bohemund Greene, a 19-year-old student in Bournemouth: “Sadly, it’s just another symbol of decline, seeing the amount of shops just closing down with no business able to take its place is just very sad to see. With the loss of Beales as well a couple of years ago, getting nice-looking clothes is simply going to be a little more difficult.”
A shopper in Mansfield: “It’s sad to be losing a stalwart of the high street. Growing up, Debenhams was an aspirational ‘posh’ store.” He said the closure of the store would “decimate” the local mall: “It used to be thriving with a real buzz about the place on a weekend. It’s now so empty, it’s sad.”
Former employee Lawrence New: “It’s [Debenhams’ closure] very sad but was on the cards for many years. I believe every person from store manager above should hang their heads in shame. For years nothing was done, just collecting wages and not fighting the massive issues.
“The pandemic was the final nail, but all the cutbacks, lessening of quality and how the structure had gone pear-shaped, were the main reasons for the closures.”
Ashley Mortimore in Brighton: “Every time I ventured in, I wished I hadn’t. They never seemed to have much for people like me and what they did have was pricey and not good value. It felt like stepping back a couple of decades. Going to Debs reminded me of being dragged around C&A by mum when I was younger.”
A shopper in Chelmsford: “It’s so sad. Its been around for such a long time and seen out so many challenges, it’s tragic it couldn’t keep up with the changes in this era. It’s going to leave such a hole. We still haven’t filled BHS. There is life in other areas of the city centre, but it’s just going to add to the empty shops. We need a complete rethink on how town centres can still be used and still thrive.”