Shoppers 'devastated' on closing day for Sunderland Debenhams as department store giant disappears from high streets
Shoppers were met with an almost empty Debenhams store in Sunderland as the department store opened for its final day.
Debenhams, which spans over three floors at The Bridges, has closed for good after spending decades as a staple department store in the city centre.
The chain collapsed at the end of last year and the closure of all stores was confirmed after Boohoo agreed to only buy its website and brand in a £55 million rescue deal.
The 242-year-old high street giant will leave a huge hole in towns and cities across the country and on a rainy Saturday in Sunderland shoppers turned out to pay one final visit to the store.
Outside the department store, Vivienne Bays, 69, said: "It’s almost empty now and the staff members won’t have jobs, it’s really sad.
"Debenhams was a bit more classy and a bit more up-market and it’s just gone.
"We’re from South Shields and Debenhams has been replaced by a bigger B&M that’s moving in and I’m just gutted."
She was out shopping with Lesley Petrie who added: “That style of shop is no longer, for the likes of our age group, and any other age group for that matter, it will be a big, big miss.
"We’ve just been in and we’ve both said we’re absolutely devastated."
As restrictions eased on April 12, Debenhams joined other non-essential retailers and opened for a final clearance sale.
A banner reading ‘everything must go’ hung above the entrance from Crowtree Road as a final handful of clothing rails remained inside the shop on Saturday, May 8.
Debenhams won’t be the only store missing on the high street following closures of other big names like TopShop, Dorothy Perkins and Burtons.
Mandy Watt, 60, said: “It’s the only big store that we had. I’ve been in and there’s nothing left, I think they will probably close early. There’s just odds and ends left, it’s such a shame that it’s come to this.
"All of these people are out of jobs now.”
"If you look around there’s so many shops that have closed not just because of the pandemic. I just think it’s a shame for the city,” added Mandy, of Farringdon.
Others fear shoppers will head to Newcastle or the Metrocentre rather than coming into the city centre.
Polly Blyth, 68, said: “We don’t have another store like it so people will go to John Lewis and Fenwicks and it will be a big loss to Sunderland I feel.
"I think more people will go to Newcastle for Fenwicks or John Lewis and then everything that is currently in Sunderland is there for them.”
The remaining 45 of 118 stores are expected to close on or before Saturday, May 15 – including the one at Newcastle’s Eldon Square.
In a statement released in the final days ahead of the closure, a spokesman for Debenhams said: “Our sincere thanks go out to all of our colleagues and customers who have joined us on this journey.”