Debenhams closures: 'New' Wolverhampton branch to shut

Image caption,
Debenhams was the Mander Centre's flagship store when it opened in Wolverhampton 18 months ago

Wolverhampton's flagship Debenhams store opened to great fanfare 18 months ago - but it is now earmarked for closure.

The shop, one of 22 due to shut next year, opened in the city's £35m Mander Centre in October 2017.

It was hailed as a "wonderful addition", with the council boasting of how 90% of the 150 staff were Wolverhampton residents.

The authority said it would boost the local economy's retail-offering and bring in more visitors.

Debenhams' PR people echoed the sentiment, hailing its commitment to regeneration.

"We are really enjoying being in the city," a spokesman said at the time.

But, following in the footsteps of Woolworths and BHS, its doors are set to shut for the last time.

"It's only just opened," Sheena Arnott, 57, of nearby Sedgley, said.

"I went in there yesterday, I go in once or twice a month."

Image caption,
It's back to shopping at the Merry Hill centre for Sheena Arnott

With BHS also closing down there is not much left in the city, she said she will now travel to the Merry Hill shopping centre in Dudley.

"I don't drive so it's an hour on the bus for me," she said.

"It's sad, really."

"I've shopped [at a Debenhams] since I was a little girl, wherever I've lived I've shopped [there] - it would break my heart if this one closes," said Beverley Franklin, 62,

"I live in Wolverhampton, I would have to take the Metro to Birmingham and that's no good for me as a disabled person," she said, adding she does not shop online.

But for Marie Ashfield, Debenhams was too expensive and not a shop she used.

"I go to others, they are cheaper and pretty much the same as what you get at Debenhams," the tanning salon owner said.

Eric Nisbit, 56, from the Finchfield area, said there was an air of inevitability about the closure.

Image caption,
There's an air of inevitability about the closure for Eric Nisbit

"When I shop in Debenhams, which I've done recently, I find there's a lack of stock," he said.

"And there's a better variety on the internet on Debenhams' website."

But he said the closure would add to the large number of empty shops in the centre of Wolverhampton.

"I would prefer to shop in the high street but the range of goods isn't there," he said.

Image caption,
The closure will be a big blow to the city, MP Emma Reynolds said.

Former John Lewis boss and West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street said he was very surprised and saddened to see Wolverhampton and Birmingham's Fort retail park on the closure list.

"Debenhams will be a particular loss to Wolverhampton after only opening a couple of years ago. My thoughts are with the staff affected."

Emma Reynolds, Wolverhampton North East MP, said it was hugely disappointing news.

"Closure will be a big blow to the city and especially the people who work there. It is a great store and I shop there regularly with my family," she said.

Isobel Woods, Wolverhampton council's head of enterprise, said the announcement highlighted changes in the way people shop.

The council and Mander Centre owners Benson Elliott will be exploring "alternative scenarios" and staff would be supported, she said.

"However, as it stands at the moment, this is sad news for everyone who works at our local store."

Ms Woods added the city had recently welcomed H&M, New Look, B&M and Matalan stores.

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