The last Debenhams stores will close as of this Friday and Saturday, after it was announced the brand was moving online on April 9th, 2020. Since then, stores around the country have been slowly shutting down, and this weekend marks the end of a high street era.
12,000 jobs have been lost, and workers left without employment since the closure announcements last year. While the brand will still be available online, people who have been a part of the Debenhams family for years are now having to move on.
Debenhams began in 1778 in London, and they later expanded to Cheltenham in 1818. It saw growth in the 1900’s, and by 1950 Debenhams was the largest department store group in the country, with 84 companies and 110 stores. Sales started to slide in 2013, and after some ups and downs, and on December 1st 2020 they announced they were in administration for the second time in 12 months.
The Plymouth branch is one of the last stores that will be closing down today, and people have been heading in since it opened, getting their last shop in and making the most of the closing down sales.
— Sam Blackledge (@samblackledge) May 14, 2021
Workers and ex workers alike have been rallying together in support, sharing memories or their time working in the various stores, and sharing their goodbyes at the end of the road.
“We were a community of people, friends”
After 200 years on the high street, this weekend Debenhams will close its final stores. Former worker Jacqui Johnston tells #BBCBreakfast it’s ‘heartbreaking’.https://t.co/xZ9KRrYMV0 pic.twitter.com/lbH5iEV2Pa
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) May 14, 2021
In these unprecedented times, the retail industry has been hit hard. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many closures, business and job losses, and economical issues for high street shops, as restrictions have led more people to shop online, and continue to do so even when we can now go back into our towns.
The closure of Debenhams has helped highlight these issues, but has also created its own issues. Workers in Ireland have been striking to try and get fair redundancy. The Twitter page @DevilDebenhams have been following the strikes, and their bio explains why: “Debenhams have discarded 1000 workers in Ireland while refusing to abide by a collective redundancy agreement.”
As of today (14/5/21), workers, ex staff and supporters have been striking for 400 consecutive days, and last night a group of 50 individuals blocked security from entering the Limerick store to collect stock from the premises. A statement from twitter page @DebenhamsStaff said they classed the event as a victory, and a spokesperson for the workers added “Tonight, over 400 days into our struggle, we showed them that our resolve is as strong as ever. We are fighting on behalf of all retail workers and all workers in general in fighting for a just settlement.”
View the full statement below.
Statement in response to the Red Alert in Limerick last night #SupportDebenhamsWorkers#Debenhams #Dublin #StrikingIsNotACrime #DontPassDebenhamsPicket #Cork #Limerick #KPMG #Ireland pic.twitter.com/0gQHaTj2cV
— SUPPORT DEBENHAMS WORKERS (@DebenhamsStaff) May 14, 2021
This just goes to show how hard industries have been hit during the pandemic, from small businesses to large corporations. Workers should be taken care of and financially supported in these hard times, and hopefully they will get their justice.