Today's the day: Wolverhampton's mammoth new Debenhams swings open its doors
It began in January – and today the months of hard work by builders, fitters and display artists was made worth it.
Debenhams finally opened its much-anticipated 93,000 sq ft store inside Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre.
It adds to the department store firm’s sites in Merry Hill in Dudley, in Walsall and in Lichfield.
Former Wolves star Jody Craddock was today cutting the ribbon to the new three-floor store.
But the story behind the department store, which it is hoped will rejuvenate not only the Mander Centre but also the city, began a year ago.
After taking over the site, which used to house TJ Hughes and Tesco, the place was cleared of walls and fitting.
Store designers were brought in and the place was designed according to chief executive Sergio Bucher’s new vision.
He wants to create stores which encourage people to stay longer.
Out were the small standard changing rooms, in are larger rooms with mirrors featuring different light options.
Group-sized rooms are also available, with refreshments served to parties of people.
And rather than feature the standard cafe, Wolverhampton’s Debenhams store boasts a deli Loaf and Bloom restaurant. A 90-seat Costa Coffee is also positioned on the second floor.
It is only the second Debenhams store to feature the new design. Milton Keynes is the other.
Manager Alison Young has previously worked for Next and Marks and Spencer.
Ms Young said: “So much work has gone into creating this store, from the designers to the builders on site.
“We’re finally in a position where we can see it all coming together, and its a job we’re really proud of.
“I believe it will enhance the experience of shoppers, while also giving the city a confidence boost.”
The department store is spread of three floors. On the bottom is the women’s wear, the second floor has men’s and women’s wear, while the top is homeware.
A newly-built escalator links the floors.
On the bottom floor is Yvonne Jackson, from Ashmore Park, who works on the product team.
She said: “We’ve been busy arranging the stock, making everything presentable for our shoppers.
“There is a real buzz about the place. The city has looked forward to us opening, and now its about to happen.”
Up on to the second level, in the cosmetics department, Hannah Power, from Perton, has come from Debenhams’ store in Telford.
She said: “I joined here on August 29, and have been in since then setting up the fragrance displays.
“The excitement has been building as we got closer to the opening date.”
The store is the central piece of a £35million revamp of the shopping centre.
The Mander Centre’s new centre manager Richard Scharenguivel said the new department store was a shot in the arm for both the centre and the city.
Mr Scharenguivel, who started his new role last month, said: “Debenhams is a milestone and I think it strengthens the retail offer for the centre and the city.
“It gives people a destination to come to where they can get a multitude of products all under one roof. It will also complement our existing retailers here in the centre and also in the city as well – independents as well as multi-nationals.”
The fact the retailer has chosen Wolverhampton shows the city is moving in the right direction, he added.
Mr Scharenguivel said: “Debenhams are only opening two stores in the UK this year – here and in Stevenage.
“You can see the new chief executive’s influence on this store.
“It’s completely different to the normal traditional Debenhams and I would urge people to come down here to see it.”
Ahead of the busy festive period the store is taking on dozens of temporary staff.
The 37 Christmas roles will last from mid-November until the beginning of January, covering key Black Friday, festive shopping and Boxing Day sales. Farouk Mangera, head of human resources for UK stores at Debenhams, said: “Christmas is our busiest time of year.
“We begin planning months before the festivities start to make sure we deliver the high level of service that consumers expect from Debenhams.”
The store will be open on weekdays from 9am to 5.30pm, on Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sunday 9am to 6pm.