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Debenhams in Gravesend counts down to final day following Boohoo takeover

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A high street giant is preparing to close its doors for good this weekend.

Shoppers have been flooding to Debenhams, in New Road, Gravesend, to capitalise on deals of up to 80% off before its final day on Sunday.

Shoppers queued as Debenhams counts down to its final day
Shoppers queued as Debenhams counts down to its final day

This week, parts of the store which were once packed with rails of clothes, sat barren as the last few items were snatched up.

Although some shelves were empty, a few shoe displays and coat rails were still well stocked – including a line of electric blue trench coats.

The gift section at the front of the store was still bustling with customers as they made decisions on what was likely to be their last purchases from the store.

Towards the rear, where a cafe once stood, rows of naked mannequins, old signs and derelict hanging shelves were packed tight for removal.

Long queues of people cashing in on the closing down sale could be seen at the tills in the men's section, as one customer toyed with the idea of buying brown corduroy trousers at half price.

There were queues on the morning non-essential stores re-opened after lockdown
There were queues on the morning non-essential stores re-opened after lockdown

It was announced earlier this month that all of the clothing chain's stores will cease trading by May 15.

It came after the 242-year-old brand was bought by online fashion retailer Boohoo in a £55m deal.

One person who has regularly shopped in the Gravesend store for as long as she could remember was devastated by the news of the closure.

Mary Bass, from Meopham, said: "It's really sad and upsetting, I don't think there will be much point in coming to the town any more, there's nothing here.

"I've shopped there for a long time and it's awful to see it go. It's really upsetting."

Debenhams in New Road, Gravesend, on the day it was announced the firm was being wound down
Debenhams in New Road, Gravesend, on the day it was announced the firm was being wound down

Another regular customer said she was "absolutely gutted" when she heard the news about the store.

Gravesend resident Amanda said: "It's the only shop my husband will shop in and now it's closing.

"There's probably no reason to come into Gravesend now. It was the last of the good shops. We will probably have to go to Maidstone or Dartford or somewhere. I feel bad for the staff."

Neighbouring traders remained tight-lipped over their thoughts on the closure but no doubt they will be waiting to see what impact it has.

The impact may not necessarily be a bad one. Director of communities at Gravesham Borough Council, Melanie Norris, believes the loss of the high street giant doesn't mark the death of town centres but rather opens up an opportunity for rejuvenation.

Debenhams in Westwood Cross. Picture: Terry Scott
Debenhams in Westwood Cross. Picture: Terry Scott

She said: "Clearly the loss of large retailers such as Debenhams has an impact and we are very sorry to see any business leave.

"But this is not the end of town centres; it is the start of the re-imaging and reshaping of what they offer to draw consumers and users back, and to create a place in which existing and new businesses can thrive.

"The impact of the Covid pandemic has been felt across many business sectors over the last year, not least the retail sector with town centres, high streets and shopping centres all facing an increase in vacancy rates.

"This is not the end of town centres..."

"Gravesham has fared slightly better than the national average, but has seen its own share of vacancies rising with Debenhams being one such casualty.

"Clearly the loss of such outlets in the town centre will be felt, but there are also some positive signs of recovery amongst smaller, independent businesses.

"As Covid restrictions continue to ease, like many other councils we are focussing on our town centre recovery plans."

Work on a town centre regeneration plan began at the start of last month.

Market Square car park and Horn Yard were closed as work got under way on the first phase of the masterplan set out by Gravesham council.

Melanie added:"The Retail Group has recently been commissioned to support the development of a recovery action plan which will focus on developing a different but sustainable future for our town centre and neighbouring high streets.

"This work will look at linking the existing town with proposed new developments to reimagine and reshape the town centre, to bring back footfall and help businesses develop their offer to meet emerging trends.

"The work will focus on what consumers want from their town centres and high streets in relation to experience, services and retail, but also what support businesses need to help them adapt to consumer needs and demands."

Kent's remaining Debenhams are in Westwood Cross and Bromley.

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

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