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End of an era: Debenhams closes final stores

By Huw Hughes

17 May 2021

Business

Image: Debenhams

After more than 240 years, iconic British department store chain Debenhams closed its final physical stores over the weekend.

It's the end of an era for the company, long considered a cornerstone of the British high street, which began its days in 1778 when William Clark established a drapers store at 44 Wigmore Street in London's West End.

The company had been struggling for years against a changing retail landscape and increasing competition from online rivals, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced its physical store estate to close for months at a time.

Doors close at final Debenhams stores

The business went into liquidation late last year after a rescue deal fell through, and in January was acquired by fast-fashion group Boohoo for 55 million pounds. The deal included the brand and website of the high street stalwart, but not its store estate.

Boohoo CEO John Lyttle said at the time: “The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail.

“The acquisition represents an exciting strategic opportunity to transform our target addressable market through the creation of an online marketplace that leverages Debenhams’ high brand awareness and traffic through the development of beauty and fashion partnerships connecting brands with consumers.”

Debenhams had been progressively closing its stores over the past few months. In March, it permanently closed its 15 stores in Scotland. It then closed 52 stores in England and Wales up to Saturday May 8.

Earlier this month, Debenhams confirmed its remaining 49 stores will permanently close on either May 12 or 15 after temporarily opening them after lockdown to complete final closing down sales .