Shoppers in Swansea feel that the closure of one of the city centre’s biggest stores would be “devastating”.
It was announced on Tuesday that Debenhams will start winding down its operations “while continuing to seek offers for all or parts of the business” after rescue talks with JD Sports collapsed.
The 242-year-old department store chain said its administrators have “regretfully” decided to start its liquidation process, while continuing to seek offers.
Debenhams said it will continue to trade through its 124 UK stores and online to clear its current and contracted stocks.
Many shoppers in the city centre on Tuesday afternoon described the department store’s closure as a “devastating” blow.
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Jan Dickerson, from Treboeth, “can’t imagine Swansea without Debenhams” as she described the store as “the hub of the city”.
The 76-year-old said: “I think it would be devastating and I’m devastated that it’s closing down because this is the hub of the city.
“Everybody walks through Debenhams to go to the bus stop and it’s a friendly store where most of them (staff) have been there a long, long time and it’s very sad.
“I’m hoping somebody last minute can come in and save it.
“I have a sister working in there and she’s been there for 30 years and worked really, really hard as they all do.
“I can’t imagine Swansea without Debenhams. When David Evans closed and with British Home Stores gone, it’s the last one standing so I’m hoping it will survive.”
Rhys Marchant, 29, from Llanelli, said that the loss of the department store would be felt in towns and cities right across the country.
“It’s a focal point for a lot of shopping centres in Wales, not just in Swansea, but Newport as well with the new Friar’s Walk so it’s a big impact to the retail sector in general,” he said.
“I like going into Debenhams for the quality and you know the goods are going to be good and last long and the variety on offer.”
Maureen White, 82, from Llanelli, called Debenhams “one of the most important shops” in Welsh towns and cities, as she explained that she hopes it will be able to “stay afloat”.
She said: “I think it would have a terrible impact on the town as it’s one of the most important shops that we’ve got in Llanelli especially, and in Swansea.
“It’s got everything in Debenhams and you can find most things you want to buy.
“It’s going to be a real shame with everything closing down so I’m very sad and I hope somebody will take over and it will stay afloat.”
Jennifer Kruger agreed that the store’s closure would be “devastating” for the city centre.
The 73-year-old, from Cockett, said: “I think it would be devastating because Debenhams is one of the main shops with all of the other little shops inside.
“I think if we should lose Debenhams I really don’t think it would be good for Swansea at all.
“I do a lot of shopping online but I do like to go into Debenhams and just feel the stuff, look at it and know what you’re having.”
The department store has been an anchor store at the heart of the Quadrant Shopping Centre for many years, attracting countless shoppers into the city centre.
Lisa Hartley, manager of the Quadrant Shopping Centre, called Debenhams “very important” to the shopping centre.
“I think there’s still a chance for a deal and I’m not convinced that it’s over yet,” she said.
“It’s our anchor store and is very important to the shopping centre.
“We are on the edge of all the developments going on in Swansea at the moment so we have got that positivity happening on our doorstep.
“You hear people say ‘shop local’ but that does also mean support your city centre because if you don’t brands do close.”
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Earlier in the year, the retailer warned that the Quadrant Shopping Centre store was one of four Debenhams in Wales which could close for good because they did not qualify for emergency business rates relief.
However, Swansea Council agreed to defer its business rates until March 31, 2021.
Reacting to the news, council leader Rob Stewart said: “These are unprecedented times around the UK – they are especially difficult for everyone in the retail and hospitality sectors.
“Our heart goes out to them all and, working with the Welsh Government, we will continue to do all we can to support individuals and businesses through this incredibly difficult time.
“We work closely with Debenhams, their Swansea store has traded well and we’re talking to our contacts there to fully understand the situation in relation to our local store.
“We will seek talks with any new owners of Debenhams and the Arcadia Group should they emerge.”