19 May 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Debenhams – another household name leaves on-street retail
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Debenhams – another household name leaves on-street retail

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Change is our society just keeps romping on. Another chain store closing its retail outlets is just another nail in the coffin

The announcement today that Debenhams has been sold comes as no surprise as we knew it was insolvent. However, the rub is that the name and website has been bought, but not the bricks and mortar in the various high street shops up and down the country. This is not the first name to go this way and certainly will not be the last.

It would be easy to blame the pandemic on this fall from grace and there is no doubt that it has hastened the day but retail shops are just not economically viable like they used to  - for the simple reason that online business is much easier to handle and cheaper to execute. This much we have known for a long time.

The long and oft distinguished history of Debenhams makes interesting reading – here you can find a BBC article which tells you all about it:

Of course this sale adds to an already difficult situation – another 124 shops and 12000 jobs have gone. The big question arises about how long traditional high streets are going to last in this country. Shop closures just keep on coming and whilst part of Debenhams’ downfall was due to their inability to keep up to date, nevertheless it is just so easy to shop online and during the pandemic lockdowns, it has been ideal to do even more shopping that way.

What will the future of these large and now vacant shop sites be? One of their problems is that they are in the most expensive parts of town so rates are going to be high. They could be converted into businesses such as hotels but then there are rather a lot of those at the moment! In any case will town centres continue to be desirable places to go? If everything closes down then perhaps they will look quite different in the future. Insofar as real shops are concerned, shopping malls are certainly popular, especially where they are out of town with nice big car parks! These days high streets are becoming more and more pedestrianised and in towns and cities where parking is a nightmare and a costly one at that.

No doubt we have a lot to think about for the future and whilst the pandemic cannot be said to be responsible for this major change in our society it has hastened the day.

Adrian Leopard 25-01-21

Photo Jordan Pulmano

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