Debenhams – May they rest in peace

I managed to stumble upon a Debenhams in the Bullring recently that was in the final throes of death, with sparse stock levels, former display kit adorning darkened corners of the store and two floors closed off entirely.

It was sad to see, a reminder of the numerous bad decisions that left them facing this end. There was barely anything left and all power to the remaining colleagues manfully dealing with the remaining customers.

Accelerated by COVID restrictions no doubt, but the retailer was one of the last stores that was evocative of a pre internet age and the magic that they generated at Christmas, for example.

A failure to adapt, the internet and e-commerce march left Debenhams behind, alongside several poor decisions at executive level means they reach the end, very soon, in a physical sense at least.

Despite the sadness. The reality was that Debenhams stores were poor and worsening as the years rolled on, making refits even more expensive and even less justifiable given the unclear future, once the money was spent on the store. No one wants to throw good money, after bad.

The Debenhams offer was diminishing too and we often used to have a review of the gifting lines on Twitter each Christmas. Wondering quite how they were able to justify charging £15 for 4 bottles of ordinary continental lager alongside a branded glass.

Answer? They weren’t able to.

I was struck by the size of this Debenhams store in the Bullring, a huge space for the landlord to fill. A challenge replicated across the country one thinks.

Please review these ‘end of world’ images and take a moment to remember Debenhams, a retail titan of the day.

All the best to the colleagues and management for the future. I admired the store manager talking to a young colleague about his future and being a “numbers man”, despite his own future being up in the air.

For Debenhams; some stores are closed already and others are closing their doors shortly, the future for the chain is e-commerce only under the ownership of BooHoo. All eyes on their fortunes going forward but it’s clear that their future is rosier without the goliath fixed costs that they faced with rents, rates and all that went with it.

There we have it, the Bullring store in Birmingham, reduced to standard ‘administrators’ signage, no returns accepted signage and customers battling over the last throes of the ranges.

As ever, the biggest question remains. Who bought all those toys that can’t even be shifted at 50%+ off….

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