Fringe Box



No ‘Immediate’ Threat To Debenhams

Published on: 29 Apr, 2017
Updated on: 1 May, 2017

Debenhams in Millbrook

By Megan Wilman

Debenhams in Guildford is not under immediate threat of closure.

The company has told The Guildford Dragon that there are no immediate implications of their closure programme for their Guildford store but the company will be considering closing up to ten of their 165 stores nationwide, within the next five years, if they do not measure up.

The future of the Guildford branch might hinge on whether a new “anchor” store, possibly John Lewis, emerges as part of the North Street redevelopment plans still being kept under wraps by Guildford Borough Council.

A spokesperson for Debenhams said that their plans are more about growth, rather than closing stores. But ten stores have been identified as potentially being unprofitable in the future, and may face closure. It is not known whether Guildford is one of the ten.

Refusing to comment on individual stores, the company issued this statement: “Debenhams’ CEO announced its interim results and future strategy, which includes looking at the store estate.  Whilst it is stated that up to ten stores will be considered for closure over the next five years, there will not be any immediate implications for any of the stores. At the same time, we continue to open a small amount of stores in selected locations.”

Arriving in Guildford in the 1970s, taking over from Plummers in in the archetypical Debenhams 1960s Millbrook building, Debenhams is now also home to many luxury beauty brands, a bridal service, hair salon and a popular café.

The recent announcement follows the appointment of new CEO Sergio Bucher, who is clearly determined to buck the current trend of collapsing high street chains.

Time ran out for Guildford’s Jaegar shop earlier this month

But if any closure decision has been postponed for Debenhams, time ran out for Guildford’s Jaegar store this month when their Guildford High Street shop closed and Jaegar went into administration. The Guildford store was one the 20, out of 46 in the UK, to close. Their House of Fraser concession has also ended.

Only the older generations can remember Guildford without a Jaegar shop, a brand which seemed to fit right in with affluent Guildford’s penchant for high end ladies fashion. The closure news came as a shock to many, Jaegar was hailed as “the capital for luxury fashion” as recently as 2013.

Founded in 1884 and famed for its use of natural materials such as wool and angora, Jaeger enjoyed many accolades in high fashion circles, counting Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Twiggy as just some of its fans, as well as being photographed by David Bailey.

But it is rumoured to have been struggling to attract younger shoppers since the late 90s, as other chains such as Zara and H&M gained popularity.

It is speculated that the higher rent and business rate overhead following the Guildford’s store relocation from the Upper High Street to the more expensive High Street proper in Guildford could have been a factor in the decision to close the branch.

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Responses to No ‘Immediate’ Threat To Debenhams

  1. Gina Redpath Reply

    April 29, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    If they are going to stay in town maybe Debenhams would care to wash their building – it really looks pretty awful – probably hasn’t had a good scrub since the 1960s.

    If they do go is there any chance the building could disappear? It spoils some fabulous views, especially across the river to the castle.

    • Dave Middleton Reply

      April 30, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I quite like the Debenhams building. I don’t quite know why, as I’m not generally a fan of 60s architecture, but for some strange reason I like this one.

      It has a lovely little cafe with the opportunity to sit out in the sun on the riverside terrace when weather permits.

      I’d be rather sad to see it go if it did and even sadder for all the staff employed there.

      As for knocking it down because it, “spoils the view”, the same could be said for Charlotteville spoiling the view of Pewley Down, but I daresay Ms Redpath might not agree.

  2. David Smith Reply

    April 29, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    On a positive note it looks as though The Hummingbird Bakery have chosen Guildford for a new store in the Upper High Street. This will be their first outside of London (if you count Richmond as part of London). Neptune has also submitted plans for a new store in the former Moffatts store on the corner of the High Street and North Street.

    The two new premium lettings confirms Guildford’s status as the key shopping destination of the south East.

  3. John Lomas Reply

    April 29, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    The article mentions Jaegar having closed and used this quote “the capital for luxury fashion”. This reminded me of a tale I heard from my mother who for a couple of years in the 1950s worked sewing labels on knitwear at a factory in the upper floors of the old Rodboro buildings.

    She said that it was often a matter of the same garments having a Jaegar label or a Dorothy Perkins label, or another, possibly Bon Marche, I’m not sure.

    Consequently she was always wary about “famous label” goods.

  4. Ros McMillan Reply

    April 29, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    And can they no longer afford window dressers? Their window displays have degenerated into ugly photo boards.

  5. K White Reply

    April 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I’d be happy to see Debenhams go from their riverside site and be relocated elsewhere in Guildford. It really is a blot on the landscape.

    That patch of land should be opened up as part of Guildford’s vision to open up the river to public access.

  6. Jeff Bott Reply

    May 2, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    The Debenhams building would be of far better value to the town if it was converted into apartments. There is a large underground car park, it could be cosmetically enhanced externally to address is ugly/ unloved appearance. This would address the need for housing on brownfield sites and keep the shopping district within Millmead.

  7. Russell Morris Reply

    May 4, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Not sure about apartments. Much of the floorspace is too remote from outside walls, and rooms without windows aren’t very pleasant.

    The developer would probably have to carve out a sizeable light well in the middle.

  8. Sandy Kindler Reply

    May 5, 2017 at 8:41 am

    I would hate to see Debenhams go and hope that doesn’t happen. However the appearance of the building, particularly from the back, is indeed an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful location.

    I think the position of the cafe on the river is lovely, especially if actually sitting in the cafe and looking out. However for those standing outside the building looking at the cafe it’s a different story. It is just not possible to look at this building and find anything attractive.

    The architecture is hideous and looks old and tired. It’s not just a matter of it being too modern for the area – the Yvonne Arnaud next door is quite modern and contemporary but yet looks lovely.

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