'It is devastating for the high street' say Preston shoppers as Debenhams announces permanent store closure

Visitors to the city today spoke of the 'devastating' news that will see statement store Debenhams disappear from high streets across the country.

By James Holt
Monday, 25th January 2021, 3:45 pm

It has been announced that online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the brand and website for £55 million, in a deal that will see the department store name survive, but the company’s remaining 118 stores close for good.

Debenhams, which has stores in Preston. Blackpool and Wigan had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.

Retired Veronica Petrie, 66, from Penwortham, hasn't visited the high street since the first lockdown in March last year but said she is "absolutely devastated" to hear that the store will only operate online.

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Boohoo has purchased the department store which will continue trading online

She said: "I love Debenhams and to be honest, it is the only place in Preston I used to shop in and I think the only reason that many people come here.

"I think the store was already on a decline before Covid, and now the pandemic has just completely finished it off. I think it will continue to do the same for other big high street stores too, unfortunately.

"Sadly I think in about 20 years most of the big shops will be shut and shopping will be completely different in years to come. People are going to have to continue shopping online but I absolutely hate it. I like to touch things and see what I'm buying.

"Small towns with lots of independent shops will go from strength to strength but I think with the way things are going, Preston's high street is going to completely die now Debenhams has gone.

Debenhams has been a statement store in Preston's Fishergate shopping centre

"There was something there for everyone - you could have a wander around, see lots of different items and get a coffee and watch the world go by."

Retired nurse Janet Trickett, 62, from Lower Penwortham, said: "The news is very sad for Preston because it is our main shop really. I think the store was in a bad way already and now Covid and the lockdown has just been the final nail in the coffin.

"I think the store only going online is really bad news, for the thousands of staff and especially for people my age who like to shop around and try clothes on.

"Now there will not really be anything to come into town for, unfortunately. There is only really Next and Marks and Spencers left now. Hopefully, Boohoo will at least be able to improve the delivery for Debenhams going forward."

The department store was currently already closed due to government guidance

With stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs will be saved.

But clothing giant Boohoo said the new deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

Front line worker at Fulwood Hall hospital Sheila Blain, 52 said: "It's very difficult for businesses at the moment with everything going on. We aren't too affected by it at the moment because we can only shop online anyway but when we go back to normal, the high street will not be the same without Debenhams here.

"I don't come into Preston much anymore for shopping because it has gone really downhill over the past few years and this shows it. I would much rather go to Manchester.

Shoppers are 'devastated' about the news

"You can get anything in Debenhams and the news is really sad. Even just being here today feels sad because it is so quiet and empty everywhere."

Unemployed May Watt, 64, from Preston, added: "It is a big shock to many because I know a lot of people who only came into Preston to shop at Debenhams.

"The high street is declining anyway and it is such a shame to see. I don't come out often anyway, but when I do there is just nobody here and I think many businesses will continue to struggle and it will remain the same after the pandemic. It is so depressing.

"I have to come out to do my shopping because a lot of people my age don't know how to buy things online, and that will be the same for the majority of customers from Debenhams."

Last month, it was announced that the retail giant was to be starting the liquidation process after rescue talks with JD sports collapsed.

The statement Fishergate site had been spared after a number of branches confirmed they would be shutting permanently earlier last year.

But it was today announced that Boohoo had bought the brand in a £55m deal.

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