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Wolverhampton 'will survive loss of Debenhams' as store closes for good

By Thomas Parkes | Wolverhampton | Business | Published:

Wolverhampton city centre remains in a healthy position despite the loss of Debenhams, the council leader said today.

The high street giant was today shutting its city store for the final time – just two years after opening as the refurbished Mander Centre’s anchor store.

Its loss has served a blow but officials believe exciting projects planned for the city mean it will be able to recover.

Council leader Ian Brookfield pointed to the arrival of House of Fraser in the Mander Centre, which is moving from Beatties to take over the Debenhams store later this year, as evidence the city still has a strong retail offer.

It will become the first Frasers store in the country, one of Mike Ashley’s new concept stores, featuring a mix of brands that make up his retail empire.

Crowds lined up to visit Debenhams when it first opened on October 12, 2017

Topshop and Topman on Dudley Street is also closing but restaurant chain Loungers has been given permission to move in.

Metro Bank opened yesterday in Dudley Street and Wetherspoons is planning a £7m hotel and museum in Lichfield Street.

Councillor Brookfield said: “It is sad when any big, established name goes but it is something we have seen with a few of them across the country.

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"What is particularly pleasing is we have got a good brand coming to replace that.

"That’s good news and shows that the retail offer is still valued and businesses still want to use it.”

WATCH: Mander Centre boss on store's final day

Mander Centre manager Richard Scharenguivel said: “The store had only been opened for 18 months and it is disappointing, but it was a number of stores which are closing which is unfortunate.”

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Mander Centre boss speaks on Debenhams closure

Mayor Andy Street echoed their views, saying: “Obviously it’s very sad when an iconic brand moves away and of course it’s part of a much bigger matter – and it tells us we have to think about the new priorities for towns and city centres.

"The positive thing is that Frasers is moving into the Mander Centre. The successful places are embracing change and we should be really optimistic about that.”

Shoppers' sadness at Debenhams farewell

It opened with huge crowds and thousands of smiles – but today Debenhams pulled out of the Mander Centre for good.

The store was meant to be a fresh start both for the shopping centre and the brand. It was a new-style Debenhams, designed to be the Mander centre’s anchor.

Today shelves were empty as the final rails were emptied in a sale offering at least 70 per cent off.

The Wolverhampton store is expected to be replaced by a new Frasers store later this year as House of Fraser moves from the iconic Beatties building.

Shopper Sue Simner, of Kingwinford, outside Debenhams

For shoppers seeking sale bargains there was sadness that Debenhams was going and concern about the city’s shopping centre as a whole.

Sue Simner, who is from Tettenhall but now lives in Kingswinford, said: “I think it’s a tragedy. I think it’s awful because they were going to be the next big thing.

“We used to come here every week and now, looking around, it’s a shame. It’s really terrible and it’s just very sad to see it go.”

The 69-year-old added she had little enthusiasm for the arrival of Frasers, adding: “The trouble with House of Fraser is they’ve got too many things in the stores. When it was Beatties, it was Beatties – it was all the same store.”

Ralph Simner said people who used online shopping were to blame for the store’s downfall, adding: “We all look at things and think we can get it on the net for cheaper.”

Debenhams shopper Saira Karim picking up some last minute bargains

Saira Karim, from Wednesfield, said it was sad the store was closing, but added she was looking forward to House of Frasers being in the Mander Centre.

She said: “It’s not a happy thing. It’s like a market in there and there’s a lot of good stuff.

“But the closure, it’s not good for them or for the shoppers. I think it’s going downhill, definitely, but it’s really nice to see House of Frasers moving in.

“I’ve been getting some make-up stuff from there and it will be very convenient – it will be very used.”

The first shoppers entering Debenhams when it opened in October 2017

The much-anticipated opening of the 93,000 sq ft department store saw shoppers waiting to get inside for up to two hours before the ribbon was cut in October 2017.

Cheers rang out as former Wolves star Jody Craddock helped cut the ribbon. But it was announced in April last year it will close up 22 outlets across the country this year – putting 1,200 jobs at risk.

Melvyn Clements, 71, from Kingswinford, said: “We’re sad it’s going. We’re not regular Debenhams customers but it seems like a shame for the city.”

Pauline Clements and Melvyn Clements

Adrian Eaden, aged 54, from the city, said: “They wasted millions rebuilding this part of the Mander Centre especially for Debenhams and now it’s closing.

“The store wasn’t laid out well and my wife says they didn’t stock enough women’s clothing.

“The people in Wolves do themselves a disservice by shopping in Telford or at Merry Hill instead of here in town.”

Rod Painter and Madeline Painter, both from the city, said they were “not surprised” it was shutting.

Ron Painter and Madeline Painter outside Debenhams

Rod, aged 78, said: “So many shops are cheaper than Debenhams and provide equally good quality items.

“I’m not surprised it’s closing. It is sad for the city but mostly it’s the internet’s fault as people are shopping more on there now.”

Madeline, aged 77, said: “Debenhams should really have succeeded.

“It was a new store that offered something new after Beatties went downhill.

“Unless Wolverhampton is shaken up dramatically, the city centre will continue being rubbish.”

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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