Fringe Box



Guildford Debenhams Safe For Now As Stores Shut Across the UK

Published on: 5 Jan, 2020
Updated on: 5 Jan, 2020

by Hugh Coakley

The iconic Debenhams store on Millbrook is safe for now as the struggling department store owners announced that it would close 19 other stores around the country within weeks including the Walton-on-Thames branch.

Debenhams is reported to have a reprieve until January 2021.

The Guildford store was listed for closure in January 2020 after going into administration earlier in the year but it was later given a reprieve until January 2021. The year long stay of execution was widely welcomed in the town.

But the store is still in trouble with footfall looking very quiet and Debenhams being described as a “zombie” company by one analyst. The rescue plan by the company is to shut down a total of 50 stores over the next year.

Press reports said that talks were being held last month between Debenhams and landlords for fresh rent cuts. The outcome of these talks could determine the fate of the Guildford branch, said the report.

Another new cafe outlet, Bombay Buzz, is soon to open in Friary Street. It appears that the ‘indies’ are more optimistic about the future than chains stores.

Poor weather, online shopping and environmental concerns were all factors said to be affecting post-Christmas shopping in the high street.

And while the high street woes and further closures are likely to continue in 2020, there was cautious optimism by traders in Guildford town centre. Independent traders appeared to be more positive about the future than the chains.

Peak Peformance, a ski and sportswear specialist shop, is in Market Street until April 2020, or longer if the demand is there.

Alex Redmonds, director of the menswear shop, Michael Chell, in Guildford, said: “We had the best ever Christmas Eve. Our sales are now on until the end of January. We feel optimistic going forward now that the uncertainty of Brexit is behind us.”

Tunsgate Quarter looked busy on January 2 but with no sign of the empty shops, that have failed to be let since the opening in March 2018, being occupied. The Guildford Dragon NEWS has asked Tunsgate Quarter for a comment.

Post-Christmas sales may be losing their attraction with sales signs up throughout the town for months now.

Staff at Trail Finders, the travel agent in the High Street, said: “January and February are our busy months as that is when the airlines have their sales. A couple of people have asked about alternatives for flying because of the climate emergency but no change really.”

Loake Shoemakers in the High Street, was “going very well after one year in Guildford.” said Rob Moutford, assistant manager of the Guildford branch. He added: “We have lots of loyal customers coming in regularly and Christmas was above our expectations.”

Staff at the outfitters, Barbour, and the home furnishings store, India Jane, and Molton Brown, the fragrance and beauty shop, all said that Christmas sales had been good but only as expected. And staff in the new branch of Trespass in North Street said that business had been steady.

Kris Tucknott of Unplug and Play, Guildford’s first board game café in Jeffries Passage, was chatting to customers with every table in his café full. Against a background of chatter and laughter, he said: “I am optimistic. You have to be when you run a small business. We’ve had our wobbles in the first year but it’s evening out in a positive way now.”

Every table was full at Unplug and Play in Jeffries Passage, not only with families but couples and groups as well.

Gift Search in Tunsgate is closing due to retirement on January 31.

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