Debenhams closures prove retailers need to adapt, says Sunderland academic

A Sunderland academic says the High Street shopping experience needs to change after another major retailer announced huge job losses.

Thursday, 25th October 2018, 11:43 am
Updated Thursday, 25th October 2018, 11:48 am
Professor Lawrence Bellamy from the University of Sunderland.

Debenhams today became the latest store to announce swingeing cuts in the wake of poor financial results.

It says it will close 50 stores, putting around 4,000 jobs at risk, over a three to five-year period.

Debenhams has announced it will close 50 stores, putting around 4,000 jobs at risk.

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There has been no confirmation of where the axe will fall, but it will leave staff uneasy in Sunderland, Newcastle, Gateshead and Stockton, as well as the Desire outlet in South Shields.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, who is Academic Dean at the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland, said the news is yet another sign that traditional High Street stores need to change if they are to survive.

“Debenhams is one of the long line of High Street retailers who continue to suffer the rebalancing of the retail sector.

"Challenged by significant overheads, pressure on disposable income and the rise of the internet shopper, the bricks and mortar side of the business is suffering.

Debenhams has stores in Sunderland, Newcastle, Gateshead, South Shields and Stockton.

"However, given the strength of the brand, distribution on-line in parallel and the many profitable areas of the business, a leaner and more focused offering should have strong potential for future stability.

"It’s still, after all, a £3billion business, so there's lots of scope."

Prof Bellamy said stores need to adapt to people's changing shopping habits, with an online offering which is as strong as their High Street presence a must.

“In a pressurised market then weaker competitors are squeezed out, restructuring is required and mergers and acquisitions occur.

"Some organisations which have expanded during better times find that those areas of the business which were marginal now become loss-making and require pruning.

"We’ve seen this time and time again, for example historically with M&S.

"The High Street shopping experience needs to change if people are going to get out of their homes, off their mobile phones and into the shops to purchase.

"Leaner and more exciting is becoming the new model, with parallel on-line provision a must.”