Debenhams empty units to remain on high streets for years, experts warn

Debenhams Boohoo acquisition
Since Debenhams fell into administration for the second time within a year last April, the department store chain has announced significant job losses and scores of store closures
// Debenhams’ empty stores could remain on high streets for years
// The department store chain was sold to Boohoo for £55m
// Boohoo will shutter Debenhams’ stores and retain its online channel

The former Debenhams stores on the UK’s high streets are likely to remain as empty units for years, experts have reportedly warned.

Following the £55 million sale of the Debenhams brand to online retailer Boohoo, the department store chain is set to shutter stores while retaining its website.

Experts have said stores in prime locations had potential for conversion, Property Week reported.


The Boohoo deal means the remaining 118 stores of Debenhams, which went into liquidation less than two months ago, would permanently shut down, effectively making at least 10,000 staff out of work.

Boohoo Group, which owns PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal, MissPap and Boohoo itself, said the deal was a huge step in its ambitions to create the UK’s largest marketplace.

Since Debenhams fell into administration for the second time within a year last April, the department store chain has announced significant job losses and scores of store closures.

Earlier this week, real estate adviser Altus Group said landlords may be forced to pay nearly £1 billion in business rates for empty shops during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The collapse of both Debenhams and Arcadia group could see 14 million sq ft of retail space become vacant. Landlords may have to stump up a further £141 million annually in empty rates, after a short exemption period, if new tenants cannot be found.

News of Boohoo’s acquisition of Debenhams came as rival online fashion retailer Asos announced it was in exclusive talks to buy Topshop from administrators.

Asos said on Tuesday it was interested in saving the Topshop flagship store in London if its exclusive talks to buy Arcadia Group brands out of administration succeeds.

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  1. As was covered in the press last week, but not by yourselves, one of the UK’s leading leisure operators, Gravity Active Entertainment, has signed to take on the ex Debenhams unit in Wandsworth which they are redeveloping into an 80,000sqft flagship family leisure destination.
    I think this is a great example of how these sites can be made relevant to future customer aspirations. It does however need some foresight from property owners to invest in making the space match with the requirements of future tenants.

  2. Not necessarily there are plans for our old units and many others for alternative uses like mixed use, apartments, apart hotel, hotel, and smaller retail units.

    Weymouth has gone to The Range. Most of them will find a new use.
    Canterbury has plans for redevelopment as retail various classes of units on ground floor and flats above. They will sell the flats as a lot of people want to live in the heart of the city.

    Folkestone will find a new use and is currently being used as a covid19 vaccine centre.
    Really hope the original features of these old stores like the central staircase in Folkestone are kept. Some of the ground floor could be given over to an M and S food hall as they have wanted to return to Folkestone for years Marks and Spencer.

    I do think new uses are going to be found and stores will get repurposed.

    Business Rates needs another 1 year holiday and then abolishing with a turnover scheme introduced and online needs to be taxed it’s as simple as that to provide a level playing field.

    A click and collect tax could be lower than a deliver to home tax, and a buy in store could have a lower level of VAT. There are ways if the government want to support jobs on the high street.


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