Emotional scenes as last Debenhams stores close

‘I’m going to cry when the shutters come down on Saturday’

Eleanor Sly
Saturday 15 May 2021 18:12 BST
The last of the 28 stores will shut this evening
The last of the 28 stores will shut this evening (AFP/Getty)

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Louise Thomas

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Debenhams will close its doors today for the final time after over 200 years on the high street.

Staff have said they will be in tears when the last of the company’s 118 shops shut for the final time this evening.

The chain’s first store was opened in 1778 on Wigmore Street, central London, by William Clark, selling fabrics, bonnets and parasols. It was at one time the largest department store group in the UK, owning 84 companies and 100 stores in 1950.

With shopping increasingly moving to online combined with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the chain has struggled in recent years and last year filed for administration three times.

In January 2021 the company was bought for £55m by online giant Boohoo. In total, 12,000 jobs were lost overnight as bosses revealed they were planning to take it to an online-only brand, rivalling the likes of John Lewis.

The purchase excluded all of the 118 physical stores owned by the company, many of which will now be redeveloped, made into flats or left bare.

Earlier this month, 97 of these stores reopened in an attempt to shift millions of pounds worth of stock as part of the liquidation process. Only 28 opened their doors today, including shops in Manchester, Liverpool, Bromley, Exeter and Colchester, and they will close for the final time this evening.

Shoppers have been able to pick up discounts of up to 80 per cent off, generally, and 70 per cent off on beauty and fragrances.

Other well known high street brands including Laura Ashley, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Oasis and Warehouse have also all slid into insolvency since March.

Boohoo has also purchased Oasis and Warehouse to add to its Debenhams takeover.

Nicola Rice, 35, who works in the Sheffield city centre store, said she had worked there since leaving school, reported The Mirror.

She admitted: “I’m going to cry when the shutters come down on Saturday.”

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