BOURNEMOUTH looks set to lose the department store that has been in its Square for more than a century following a devastating day for Britain’s retail industry.

A total of 25,000 shop jobs are set to be axed after the collapse of the Arcadia group of stores and the end of a rescue bid for Debenhams.

The closure of Debenhams would deal a major blow to the town centre, which has already lost a huge department store this year with the demise of Beales in March.

The town also saw its large branch of Marks & Spencer close in 2018, after 88 years of trading.

Debenhams’ demise would leave empty a building which has been a department store since 1915.

All Debenhams stores set to close after rescue talks collapse

Jeff Bray, senior lecturer in marketing and retail management at Bournemouth University, said:

“I’m ever the optimist for the high street and I do think there’s a real customer demand for the high street – but as the high street gets hollowed out, that demand diminishes because the high street becomes less and less attractive to shop in.

“I do fear this news is quite bleak.

“I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that these two retailers are failing and I think that was quite predictable in a way, but both of them going at the same time, that does represent quite a proportion of some town centres and that will drive customers away, which will harm the remaining retailers.”

He added: “Maybe there isn’t a place for more than one big shopping destination in Bournemouth. It may be that a rejuvenated Castlepoint will continue with full capacity and become the destination for physical shopping, while Bournemouth is radically repositioned as a leisure destination with some retail.”

Opening date for Debenhams Bournemouth – but some staff redundant

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia went into administration on Monday night, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia empire goes into administration

Arcadia has Topshop and Topman in Bournemouth’s Old Christchurch Road and at Castlepoint. Castlepoint also has its Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Wallis stores.

The move led JD Sports to pull out of talks about buying Debenhams out of administration. All 124 Debenhams stores are now being wound down, with remaining stock to be sold while administrators remain open to any further offers.

The chain employs 12,000 people.

Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer of Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID), said: “Covid has accelerated a national decline on the basis of national retailers not being able to move quickly enough, given the breathtaking pace of change in high streets and town centres.” He said some big retailers were tied into long-term leases which were no longer appropriate or viable. The episode showed the need for town centre visions and for councils and businesses to work together, he said. He stressed Bournemouth which had big name retailers who had adapted, as well as independent businesses.

Geoff Rowley, partner with FRP Advisory and joint administrator to Debenhams, said: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams. However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.

“The decision to move forward with a closure programme has been carefully assessed and, while we remain hopeful that alternative proposals for the business may yet be received, we deeply regret that circumstances force us to commence this course of action.”

Picture of the Day: When Debenhams was Bobby's

Debenhams’ Bournemouth shop was purpose-built as Bobby & Co and became Debenhams in 1972.