SHOPPERS in Bournemouth have called it “the end of an era”, as the Debenhams store in the town centre opens its doors for the very last time today.

The Debenhams brand name and website were bought in January by the online retailer Boohoo.

However, the final 49 stores will be closing this week, with thousands of jobs being lost.

The Bournemouth department store will close its doors for the last time today, with the business' final 28 stores to be axed on Saturday, May 15.

Bridget Lo Cascio from Puddletown said: “It is quite sad for the town; it is the end of an era.

"I think it is quite sad, you don’t expect a department store like Debenhams to close. We have one in Weymouth which has already closed and its being replaced with a Range store.

“My son just got me a shirt but there isn’t much to choose from in there. It is like a ghost town in there, the shelves are looking pretty bare. There is just a few clothes racks."

There were queues outside the store this morning before its opening time with people looking to profit from the massively discounted products left at the store.

All beauty and electrical items had been sold. All that was left on the final day were a handful of racks with clothing, DVDs and gift experience packages.

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Concession items will be taken back by the relative businesses but, in term of Debenhams stock, staff said they were down to their last few items.

Roy Jones from Bournemouth said: “It is a shame; we have definitely lost a lot of these big department store and it is changing the look of the town centre.

“They used to be treasure troves, you could get everything you wanted practically under one roof.

“We are losing history because they have all these employees and all the members of staff who have a share in the company who will now need to find work elsewhere.”

Some members of staff had been working at the store for decades, with one member of staff having worked at the Bournemouth store for 37 years.

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Residents said that, although the current pandemic has exacerbated the situation, the closure of the store was imminent with the rise of online shopping.

Mr Jones added: “The days of the department stores are dying because people are being pushed to use online shopping because you can find exactly what you want and get it deliver right to your door.

“It is going to be difficult for these big stores to keep going.

“It is a shame because there are staff that have worked in these stores for years. What do they do after this store closes?

“All around here is the service industry and with all these young people and students looking for jobs, older people are going to be up against it and may struggle to find work elsewhere unless they have to retrain in something completely different.”

Workers at the store said they had been helped by the fact that they had known the store was to close for a while so they could make arrangements with regards to their employment.

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Management staff also said that they were happy about the fact that there will still be life in the building as Bobby & Co. plan to move back into the building which they occupied for 57 years from 1915.

Owners plan to restore the building as closely as possible to its original splendour with the first elements opening in mid-July.

Mrs E. Watson from Poole said: “It is sad, and it very sad for the town that everything seems to be closing.

“But I think it depends on your age. My son is very happy that things are moving online because it is more convenient and sometimes cheaper.

“But you don’t get the experience of going into a town centre, finding things you thought you didn’t need and, even though this a national department store, you are still helping the local economy.”

However, shoppers said that there needs to be more incentives in the town centre to stop other companies leaving the high street, whilst encouraging people to shop in store.

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Mrs Watson added: “We come into Bournemouth because it used to be a far better shopping experience than anywhere else around here. Now it isn’t.

“This is a student town and an international town, but these people are not going to want to come back if the town centre has nothing to offer.

“There need to be something that draws people in and incentivises people to come to the town centre, whether that is selling things you can’t find anywhere else or something else.

“If things can be replaced with new and innovative businesses, then great. There is every opportunity to do that if retailers have the confidence to venture back onto the high street.”