End of an era as Debenhams closes in Telford

It was the end of an era as staff shut the doors on Telford's Debenhams branch for the final time this weekend.

Staff created a party-like atmosphere despite their sadness as Debenhams closed the doors of its branch in Telford on its final day of trading. Photo: Amy Marie Bailey
Staff created a party-like atmosphere despite their sadness as Debenhams closed the doors of its branch in Telford on its final day of trading. Photo: Amy Marie Bailey

The department store closed for the last time on Saturday, as shops continue to struggle from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Shoppers in Telford Centre have seen many shops come and go over the years, but Debenhams has held an iconic place in the centre for decades.

Its building, bearing its name, stands out as you drive past the shopping centre and it will be missed by locals and visitors to Telford alike.

The Telford store is one of 52 that the company announced would shut down for good.

A total of 45 shops were listed to continue trading until May 15, but the Telford site closed on Saturday.

Debenhams went into liquidation in December, after an administration process that started in April failed to secure any buyers to save the department store chain.

Retailer Boohoo bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55 million in January, but it is the end of an era for the high street stores.

Variety

Shoe department assistant Amy Bailey said Saturday was a strange day with staff ensuring a party-like atmosphere despite the sadness.

“We really are like one big family,” she said.

“I had been there for five years but there were staff who had worked there 20 or 30 years. We are all keeping in touch. Some people have found new jobs but many others haven’t.

"We had a socially-distanced farewell on the top floor with presentations and lots of photos taken.

“I am very grateful to have worked there. Yesterday we had lots of customers telling us how sorry they were that we were closing.

"I fear this is just the start of closures for many other stores as retail moves online. But people will miss the personal touch."

Helen and Geoff Darkes, from Telford, said they shop at Debenhams a lot and would miss the variety it offered.

"It's shocking," Helen said.

"I am gutted. There are so many shops closing down now. I was just discussing with my husband, where do we go now to do our clothes shopping and buy clothes.

Helen and Geoff Darkes

"Debenhams was such a medium price, with a good range of items and lots of different brands in there. A great variety with good pricing."

Helen said it was a sad sight in the town centre on Saturday, as the shelves were empty after the store held a huge closing down sale.

She said: "I think this will just be the new high street now, but it's not the same – I like to be able to go in to a shop, feel the fabric and the quality of something without shopping online.

"Laura Ashley, House of Fraser, Peacocks, so many shops have closed down recently – where do we go now if we wanted to see any clothes in person.

"It was the saddest sight I had ever seen inside, there was nothing on the rails because they have sold everything. We thought we'd go today for one last look."

Alicia Wright, from Telford, said she hasn't shopped in Debenhams a lot over the years, but feels sad to see the town centre lose the shop.

"I can't say I use the shop a lot anyway, I find it a bit expensive even when there are sales on," she said.

"I don't wear much designer clothes or that sort of thing, I prefer New Look or Primark.

"It's very sad to see it go though as the shop has been here for years and years. People have lost their jobs, it's awful."

Debenhams has closed its Telford store

One lady, who didn't want to give her name, said she was 'gutted' Debenhams was closing and it was her favourite shop.

Terry Hopkins, from Telford, said: "I like the shop, I come here a lot. It's sad to see it go after all these years, and sad for those who have lost their jobs."

Samantha Edwards, from Telford, agreed it would be sad to see it closing, but that she and her family haven't really ever shopped in Debenhams.

"It's sad to see another business closing down, I suppose it's due to the pandemic," she said.

"I don't shop there that much but it's such a big space in the town centre, it's sad to see it go."

Larry and Bridget Yapp, from Newport, said they will miss going to shop there.

"We will definitely miss it," Bridget said.

"There is nothing now. It's very sad. For us particularly, we have shopped at Debenhams for years. I feel very sad it's going, and I don't know what would replace it.

Larry added: "When I saw it was closing, I couldn't believe it. I love the clothes and even still buy my shoes from there."

Announcing the final closures of the remainder of its stores last week, Debenhams thanked customers and colleagues for supporting the business over the years.

A spokesperson for Debenhams said: "Debenhams will close its doors on the high street for the final time in its 242 year history.

"Our sincere thanks go out to all of our colleagues and customers who have joined us on this journey.

"We hope to see you all one last time in stores before we say a final goodbye to the UK high street."

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