Will Blackpool's Debenhams escape retail axe?
Business leaders hope Blackpool's Debenhams store will escape the axe as the resort gears up for a multi-million pound investment in the town centre.
The branch of Debenhams – which opened 10 years ago as part of a Â£30m extension to the Houndshill Centre – is under threat after the retail chain posted record losses of Â£491.5m and said it will close 50 of its 165 stores.
It is not yet known which stores will shut as part of a cost-saving plan but company bosses have said they will earmark branches which are not expected to make a profit in the next three to five years.
The Blackpool branch is the anchor store for Houndshill which is poised for further expansion when a new Wilko store and cinema is built on land on the neighbouring Tower Street.
Houndshill manager Debbs Lancelott said they hope Debenhams will not shut.
She said: “As landlords we wait to receive the closure list and until this time we have no further news.
“It is hoped the Blackpool store will remain open.”
Coun Mark Smith, ward councillor for the town centre and cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and economic development, said: “Hopefully Blackpool’s Debenhams store will be safe.
“I believe it is busier than some stores due to being in the UK’s prime holiday destination and hopefully that should put it in good stead to protect it from closure.
“It’s also one of the smaller Debenhams so probably does not have such high overheads as other stores.
“There is a lot of development going on in Blackpool at the moment including the new Wilko and cinema development alongside Houndshill which shows there is confidence in the town.
“We’re always on tenterhooks that big brands are affected by national shopping trends, and this is why we have to support our town centre and we’re doing that for example with the Christmas parking offer.”
Blackpool’s Debenhams opened in 2008 as part of a Â£30m extension of the Houndshill and has 70,000 square feet of shopping space over three floors.It was the first department store in Blackpool since Lewis’s left town in 1993.
Michael Williams, chairman of Blackpool BID (Business Improvement District) said: “Clearly, this is a national challenge with many high streets facing an uncertain future.
“However, we recognise Debenhams is an important store for the town centre and I would hope the Blackpool store will not be earmarked for closure.
“Hopefully, the owners of the Houndshill Centre and Debenhams will work together to ensure the store is saved.
“Blackpool is benefiting from millions of pounds investment at the moment and the proposed extension of the Houndshill incorporating a multi screen cinema complex will certainly increase footfall into the town centre which will have a knock on effect for all businesses. “Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher said the aim was to ensure the chain had a profitable future.
He said: “We are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time.
“Debenhams remains a strong and trusted brand with 19 million customers shopping with us over the past year.
“With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.”